The MAIB (Marine Accident Investigation Branch) has issued a Safety Bulletin today on the “use of safety harness tethers on sailing yachts” – this has been produced for marine safety purposes only as guidance for the maritime industry and contains lessons learnt from the tragic fatality of CV30 crew member Simon Speirs on Leg 3 of the Clipper 2017-18 Race.
The Clipper Race has been working in cooperation with the appropriate authorities to understand the reasons as to why Simon's safety tether did not keep him on board. Clipper Race Founder and Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, said: “We continue to be deeply saddened by Simon’s loss and it is important that we learn the lessons from this tragic accident. The Safety Bulletin from the MAIB reinforces what we have said to crew at our Sydney stopover and we have taken steps to prevent a situation like this ever occurring again. Sailing is essentially a safe sport but when we see something like this happening, we need to put our heads together to see what we can do to remove the problem.”
As explained at the Crew Brief in Sydney, initial investigations established that the cause of the failure was a very unusual tether clip angle, owing to the clip being pulled sideways against a hard object. This resulted in the clip failing at well below its straight test strength and measures have been taken to eliminate this risk.
Following further testing of the original tether, which is top-of-the-range, the Clipper Race and the Safety Committee of each boat unanimously agreed to return to using it at the Sydney stopover subject to these additional measures being put in place.
Sir Robin explained in a recent interview that these measures include wrapping 10mm rope around the cleats to the point that the tether now slides over them and the Clipper Race will stop at nothing to further improve the safety measures wherever possible across the fleet.
The MAIB has said that it will publish a full report on the fatality of Simon Speirs, including all identified contributing factors, on completion of the investigation, which is currently ongoing.