SAN DIEGO (AP) — A sailor in the Volvo Ocean Race is presumed lost at sea after going overboard in the harsh, remote Southern Ocean some 1,400 miles west of Cape Horn.
John Fisher, a native of Britain who lived in Adelaide, Australia, went overboard from Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag’s 65-foot sloop in rough conditions Monday.
Officials of the round-the-world race say the team searched for several hours in high wind and big waves before deteriorating conditions forced it to resume course toward South America.
The rest of the fleet was more than 200 miles away, and the nearest ship that could be located was more than a day away.
Given the cold water and fierce conditions, “We must now presume that John has been lost at sea,” race president Richard Brisius said in a statement Tuesday that came nearly 24 hours after Fisher went overboard.
“This is heartbreaking for all of us,” Brisius said. “As sailors and race organizers, losing a crew member at sea is a tragedy we don’t ever want to contemplate. We are devastated and our thoughts are with John’s family, friends and teammates.”
Race officials said the 47-year-old sailor was on watch and wearing appropriate survival gear when he went overboard. No further details were provided.
Fisher was an experienced big boat sailor who was sailing in his first Volvo Ocean Race, the team’s website said. He was a veteran of the Sydney-Hobart, one of the toughest offshore races.
Earlier in the race, Scallywag crewman Alex Gough was swept overboard during a sail change and was rescued within seven minutes. Gough wasn’t wearing a safety harness or life jacket, and skipper David Witt said at the time that he was lucky to be alive.
In May 2006, Dutch sailor Hans Horrevoets was swept overboard in the Atlantic Ocean. The crew turned back and found Horrevoets but could not revive him.
This edition of the race already had been tarnished by a collision involving Vestas 11th Hour Racing and a fishing boat that killed a fisherman in January. The collision off Hong Kong sank the fishing boat and caused severe damage to the racing yacht, forcing it to miss the next two legs.
The teams are on Leg 7 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil. It will cover 7,600 nautical miles. The entire race will cover some 45,000 nautical miles.
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