Race 3 - Day 20
Skipper Report
20 November

Andy Burns
Andy Burns
Team GREAT Britain
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CV30 Crew – Memories of Simon

As a Skipper, and with my primary aim in the Clipper Race being safety, this is by far one of the hardest moments of my sailing career let alone my life and it will live with me forever. A shared tragic moment between 16 crew that I pray will never happen again.

I am told by many that I did the best I could but there will always be the 'what ifs'. I keep reminding myself how extreme it is out here and how alone we are and that the crew embarking on this challenge are in the full understanding of this.

We are a family and remain a family and that is the beauty of this race. We continue to console each other, talk about things and will help each other on to Freemantle.

Simon was one of my ‘go to’ round the worlders for reassurance in decision making regarding safety and crew welfare. Although he was competitive, safety was always at the forefront of his mind which made my decisions to reduce sail plan or sail a different course in the name of safety often easier knowing that I had the backing of the crew not to race so hard at times.

He wore his wedding band around his neck on a leather shoe lace as a constant reminder of his dear wife Margaret at home. He also spoke of his children with great admiration and love.

I can't begin to describe the influences he had on me in such a short amount of time. I loved hearing about his adventures, which included sailing solo around the Isle of Wight and cycling from Land’s End to John O Groats alone. He loved his quiet time but was happy to share himself fully and honestly with myself and the rest of the crew.

I will forever remember you and you will always be in my thoughts and in my heart.

Rest in peace, Simon.

Below are messages from each of the crew onboard who have all suffered from this ordeal in their own ways.

For me, Simon was very much the senior member of our crew. We all looked to him and through his quiet dignity and positive outlook he set an example for us to follow. He was always there to encourage others to take on challenges or with a sympathetic ear when things were not going well for an individual or the crew as a whole. His thoughts and advice were valued by all, while behind the quiet exterior was also a wry sense of humour and a talent for enjoying life. While nothing can alleviate the loss and pain Margaret and his family feel, I hope that the positive way Simon touched the lives of all our crew while doing something he loved is of some comfort.

Jon Milne

He was the prototype of a British gentleman for me and it was a great honour to stay with him on board and having sailed with him. It was an inspiration to me see him working and living on our boat. He was always dedicated to do the best for it and its crew. I'll deeply miss him.

Johannes Spormann

I only knew Simon for barely three weeks but in that time, I developed a great respect for him as a person. A true gentleman who would be patient with the less experienced and willing and able to pass on that knowledge. As a sailor he would tackle any task on board without hesitation and set an example for all of us. I am deeply deeply sorry that we couldn't save you. The boat and the rest of the world who have come into contact with you will miss you. My thoughts are with Simon's family.

Jonathan Leyland

Simon was an extraordinary man with many achievements. I first met him on Level 4 training and was very happy that I would be joining him for my Legs. He was very patient and supportive in helping me settle in on board and teaching me to helm. He really seemed to be in his element and was really enjoying the experience on board. He took to all aspects of boat life and there was no task he wouldn't do. I really enjoyed his tails of his charity endeavours. I am very sorry we couldn't do more to save him. Heartfelt sympathies to Simon's family.

Nick Davies

It was tremendous for me to arrive in Cape Town and find that I had been allocated to Simon to give me a tour of the boat and how it all worked. He was meticulous in explaining how the boat was run and as a new arrival this was invaluable. He was a very good sailor at the wheel and on the foredeck and he was an example to us all, with a wry sense of humour that we all enjoyed. He also was a friend of friends and I therefore felt I knew him well. We are missing him on GREAT Britain.

Hugh Bevan

Having been on a different watch form Simon on Leg 1, I was particularly pleased to be assigned to the same watch on this occasion. His calm approach and support and belief in others was an inspiration. Modest but immensely able, his exceptional attention to detail and to others was based on a deep love for all things. Always making sure things were done properly he led by example - whether the task was the major repair to the Code 2 or the cleaning of the heads.

Simon, though really no older than many of us, was much wiser and our spiritual father figure on board. He was an extraordinary gentleman whose approach to life and others will stay with me. We had just discovered our mutual interest in fine furniture and woodworking – I am deeply sorry that we are unable to continue our conversation.

Tim Jeffery

The Tailor of Gloucester was my name for Simon as, when wearing his sail repair clothes, with his glasses on the end of his nose and needle and thread in hand, he reminded me so much of the Beatrix Potter character.

Simon became a Father figure for me on the boat, a mentor and friend who always checked that I was ok and always listened to what I had to say. I was on every watch with him and over the months we built up a trust and confidence in each other which was special.

I will always remember his amazing voice – whether it was calling out the compass course, gently coaching me on the helm when I was nervous or singing away to himself in the sail locker as he stitched his sails. He loved the wildlife of the ocean and would exclaim how fantastic it was to be surfing down the waves with the spinnaker up. His beaming smile from behind the helm made this very obvious.

This awful tragedy couldn't have happened to a kinder, gentler man. He was one in a million and such a pivotal part of Team GREAT. Always the first to volunteer for anything, always there to offer a hug and sound words of advice and not forgetting his love of his beloved sails. He clearly adored his family and I can only begin to imagine the hurt they feel, we want to do everything we can to help them. His precious albatrosses are looking after him now. Rest in peace the Tailor of Gloucester, certainly never forgotten.

Philippa O'Sullivan

Simon was a mentor and a friend, who's soft spoken instruction during time of panic while at the helm under kite kept me calm. He was convinced that he could teach me the dark art of light wind sailing, sadly this is still a work in progress but one I intend to master.

He always ensured that time was given to all who wanted to try from helming to the detailed work of sail repair – of which he was the Master. My fondest time with him was simply sitting on deck watching the sea roll by and the birds soar above us. He told the tale of how in his younger years he loved to watch birds, ensuring that all details were duly noted; species, markings etc. He also told me how now he simply enjoyed just watching them hover above the waves irrespective of what type they were. I wish you peace as you too now sore with them over the seas you loved so much.

You will not be forgotten.

Karen Semple.

My lasting memory will be our meeting in the companionway during a watch change when the Southern Ocean was behaving true to form and Simon, smiling, passed me saying “A great day for sailing”. He loved what he was doing and he enjoyed the challenge he was taking on. A fine man of great stature. My condolences to all his family and friends.

Paul Golson

Simon was a true gentleman and a tremendous person to sail, live and laugh with. Simon was always the first person to provide help and advice when I needed it and was the first person to thank you for any work that you did for the team. I could tell from our time together that Simon had a true passion for sailing and his enjoyment along with his calmness and sense of humour were incredible assets to have on the boat, that really made the experience a fantastic adventure. My thoughts are with all of Simon's family and friends at this difficult time and I send all my love from the Southern Ocean.

Iain Maclugash

A good man and a great sailor. We will miss you, Simon.

Phil Gunn

When I first met Simon in Gosport I knew this was a man I was going to like. A gentleman. A gentle man. I watched his confidence and seamanship skills grow as we went further and further into our passage around the world. I'm sure there were times when he wondered why he ever embarked on this journey but the little moans of contentment that emanated from him as he sat in the galley area eating his meals or writing his diary were proof to me that he was happy with his choice and totally at home here on the boat.

I miss Simon, his humour, his calmness, his kindness, everything.

My thoughts are with all of his family.

Ray Gibson

Dear Simon, Dear Friends and Family,

Since we met for our training weeks to prepare for this journey, I knew Simon as a polite and gentle man; always a smile in his mind, with a unique sense of humour that made it so pleasant to be next to you. Role model of a conscious and experienced seafarer, as well as your friends and family at home will do. I keep you and our common time for ever in mind,

Stefan Huemmeke

What was there not to like about Simon? I have rarely come across a man so friendly, inspiring and passionate. Always ready for a witty joke, a supportive tap on the shoulder when needed and leading by example during challenging times. A gentleman, in every meaning of the word. My deepest thoughts go to the ones he leaves behind. I hope it may come as a small consolation that he was doing what he loved most... Sail on Simon, wherever you may be...

Jeroen Rigole

Simon, you were a much loved and much valued member of the GREAT Britain crew. A real gentleman, always thoughtful and kind. As watch leader you always asked someone to carry out a job with a 'please', and always thanked for a job done.

Your wealth of skills and knowledge as a sailor benefitted us all, and you were always keen to coach and share these. As the lesser half of the sail repair team, I was privileged to spend many hours chatting with you over broken sails down below when at sea or in the sail locker in port. You were so proud of your wife and children, a real family man. The crew all knew that you were fulfilling a long-held dream in doing the Clipper Race, and you were always so happy on the boat. You will be sorely missed by us all and not forgotten. May you rest in peace embraced by the sea that you so loved. My heartfelt sympathies and condolences to Margaret and your children at such a difficult time.

Tessa Hicks

Let Peace be the Journey

Rest in Peace Simon

Andy and The GREAT Britain Team