British yachtsman John Fisher presumed 'lost at sea' after falling overboard during Volvo Ocean Race
A British sailor competing in the Volvo Ocean Race who was swept overboard on Monday has now been declared “lost at sea”.
John Fisher, originally from Southampton but resident in Adelaide in Australia, was one of the crew members on Hong Kong challenger Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag.
The 47-year-old was swept overboard at around 2pm BST on Monday afternoon, 1,400 nautical miles west of Cape Horn. The wind in the area at the time was a strong 35-knot westerly and the water temperature was 9C.
Fisher was on watch and wearing survival gear when he went overboard, race organisers said.
The Scallywag team conducted an “an exhaustive search for several hours in extremely challenging weather conditions” but were unable to recover the yachtsman, according to a statement released by the Volvo Ocean Race on Tuesday morning.
Mr Fisher was taking part in his first Volvo Ocean Race, a 45,000 nautical mile race around the world. The teams were on leg seven from Auckland, New Zealand, to Iajai, Brazil, when Mr Fisher went missing.
The rest of Scallywag's crew was unharmed and were helping coordinating a rescue effort with Chilean search and rescue authorities.
“This morning I am extremely sad to inform you that one of our sailors, John Fisher, from Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag, is now presumed to have been lost at sea,” the statement read. “This is heart-breaking for all of us. As sailors and race organisers 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.”
A ship in the area has been diverted towards the site of the incident, but at current speeds it remains over a day away.
“With the rest of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet approximately 200 miles downwind, sending them back upwind to assist, against gale to storm force winds, was not a viable option,” the statement continued.
“Given the cold water temperature and the extreme sea state, along with the time that has now passed since he went overboard, we must now presume that John has been lost at sea.
“All of us here at the Volvo Ocean Race organisation send our heartfelt condolences out to John’s family, his friends and his teammates and we will do everything in our power to support them in this very difficult time.”
Scallywag’s 65ft yacht has now resumed sailing in a north-easterly direction and is battling against deteriorating conditions, with “severe” weather forecast for Tuesday.
“The crew is, of course, emotionally and physically drained after what they have just experienced,” the statement added. “Our sole focus now is to provide all the support and assistance that we can to the team. We are sure that there will be many questions about how one of our sailors was lost overboard yesterday. We can address those after the team has been fully debriefed. Today, our thoughts and prayers go out to John’s family and the entire Scallywag team.”
Mr Fisher is an experienced big boat sailor who is sailing his first Volvo Ocean Race, according to the team's website.
The website also said he is a veteran of the Sydney-Hobart, one of the world's top, and toughest, offshore races.
The Race fleet set off from Auckland on March 18 on the toughest stretch of the around-the-world race.
The 8,700-mile (14,075 km) leg of the race takes the yachts on a three-week voyage across inhospitable waters from New Zealand to Cape Horn and then up South America's eastern coast to the Brazilian city of Itajai.
The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race is the longest in the competition's 44-year history, stretching over eight months and 45,000 nautical miles around the globe and ending in The Hague in the Netherlands in late June.