All 11 boats in the current Clipper Round the World Race will gain an additional crewmember after a rule change designed to improve safety
Following feedback from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), the Clipper Race has appointed a qualified mate on board each of its teams currently racing.
The addition of a second Clipper employee, who will be independent of the watch system in order to support each of the professional skippers, comes after the loss of crewmember Simon Speirs in the race from Cape Town to Australia on 18 November.
Clipper Race founder and chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, said: “Eight years ago we introduced the CRCC (Clipper Race Coxswain Certificate), a qualification specially designed with and approved by the MCA (Marine and Coastguard Agency), which specifically fit the purpose of the Clipper Race as it is such a unique event in sailing.
“However, in light of the recent incidents and as the Clipper Race continues its dedication to maintaining the highest safety standards, a qualified mate has been appointed on board each team, effective from [leg] four [which started 2 December].”
Simon Speirs, 60, a retired property solicitor from Bristol, fell overboard while helping change the headsail in rough conditions and winds gusting to 40 knots. Speirs was reportedly clipped on with a lifeline tether but became separated from the yacht.
He was recovered 36 minutes later but was unable to be resuscitated. Speirs’ death is the third fatality in the last two editions. During the last race in 2016, Sarah Young, 40, died after being washed overboard while not clipped on from the yacht IchorCoal. Andrew Ashman, 49, had previously died on the same yacht, when he was accidentally struck by the mainsheet.
The MAIB investigation into the fatalities of Young and Ashman resulted in a 73-page report that was released in April 2017. The MAIB found a ‘lack of effective supervision featured in both accidents’ and recommended that future Clipper Race yachts should be manned with a second employee or ‘seafarer’ with appropriate competence.
Following the death of Speirs, the MCA has temporarily withdrawn its acceptance of the CRCC as an appropriate qualification, and Clipper Ventures has had to employ a mate for each yacht in addition to the skippers and paying crewmembers. The minimum qualification for each mate is a RYA Yachtmaster Offshore certificate.
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How did the Clipper Race find 11 qualified sailors so quickly? Some are crewmembers who already have the qualification, others are Clipper Race staff. “But most came from the 5,000 ex-Clipper Race crew, some of whom had since obtained the necessary RYA qualifications… and wanted to help support the organisation at very short notice,” Sir Robin said.
Sir Robin explained that when the MGN 280 standards for commercially operating yachts came into practice, Clipper questioned the requirements for the second qualified person.
“The Clipper Race proposed, and the MCA accepted, that what was required was people with some experience to take on the position of second qualified person as set out in MGN 280. The result was the MCA-approved Clipper Coxswain Certificate, which was an exemption to the MGN 280 requirement.
“This course was for selected Clipper Race crew who had shown the necessary ability during training and who were then put through the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore theory syllabus but did their practical on the Clipper 70s and not on the 40-footers as used by the RYA. The difference is enormous between these boats, the loads being so much greater on the Clipper 70s.”