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Volvo Ocean Race sailor was unconscious before hitting water - team

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 29 March 2018, 9:12AM

Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag have released details of how sailor John Fisher went overboard during the seventh leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Fisher is presumed "lost at sea" after falling from the boat 1400 nautical miles west of Cape Horn in gale force conditions.

"This is the worst situation you can imagine happening to your team," said SHK/Scallywag team manager Tim Newton who has spoken with skipper David Witt and navigator Libby Greenhalgh about what happened on Monday.

"We are absolutely heartbroken for John's family and friends. I know for David, he has lost his best friend. It's devastating."

The team have released a timeline of events which said that at the time of the incident, weather conditions were 35-45 knots with 4-5m seas with showers reducing visibility. It was 15 minutes before sunrise.

Scallywag surfed down a large wave leading to an accidental crash gybe. Fisher had moved to tidy up a sheet and had unclipped his tether when the mainsheet system knocked him of the boat.

The crew believe he was unconscious from the blow before he hit the water.

Two buoys were thrown off the boat to mark his position but it took some time to get the boat under control and back to the mark.

A search and rescue operation was carried out for several hours but there was no sign of Fisher, the horseshoe buoy, or the JON buoy, the team said.

Newton says the team is distraught but has a clear focus on getting the crew and boat back to shore.

"This situation isn't over yet for our team," Newton said. "The conditions are extremely challenging, with strong winds and a forecast for a building sea state over the next couple of days. Our sole focus, with the assistance of Race Control in Alicante is to get the team into port safely.

"Once we have achieved that, we have time to de-brief more fully and ensure that any lessons that can be learned from what happened to John are incorporated by the rest of the fleet going forward.

"That would be a tremendous legacy for John, who spent so much of his time passing the learnings from his lifetime of experience at sea on to the younger sailors on our team."


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