British sailor, 60, dies in round-the-world race

A British sailor has died after being washed overboard during one of the world’s toughest yacht races.

Simon Speirs, 60, was taking part in the year-long Clipper Round The World challenge as a crew member with team Great Britain.

The retired solicitor, from Bristol, was helping to change a sail when he fell into the Southern Ocean during rough conditions on Saturday, organisers said.

He is the third Briton to die competing in the event in the last two years.

Clipper Ventures, the firm behind the race, said Mr Speirs was clipped on to his team’s 70ft long yacht with a safety tether but “became separated”.

Simon Speirs (far right) with his Clipper Race team. Pic: Clipper Ventures

Image: Simon Speirs (far right) with his Clipper Race team. Pic: Clipper Ventures

He was brought back on board by the boat’s crew 36 minutes later and given CPR but never regained consciousness, the company said.

The cause of death has not been confirmed but he is believed to have drowned, it added.

Clipper Ventures said an investigation will look at why the safety tether did not keep Mr Speirs on board.

The incident happened as teams raced from South Africa to Australia, with Mr Speirs’ crew in sixth place.

Clipper Ventures described Mr Speirs as a “highly experienced sailor” who had joined the 40,000-mile Clipper Race on 20 August.

“Simon’s next of kin have been informed and our deepest thoughts are with his family and all those who knew him,” the firm said.

Mr Speirs was given a sea burial at his family’s request, with a service led by his skipper Andy Burns.

Organisers call the Clipper Race “one of the biggest challenges of the natural world and an endurance test like no other”.

Previous sailing experience is not required to enter the race but each of the 12 competing yachts has a fully qualified skipper on board.

The year-long event costs £49,000 to enter and is the brainchild of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world.

London company director Sarah Young, 40, died during the race in 2016 after falling overboard while sailing from China to Seattle.

And in 2015, Andrew Ashman, 49, from Orpington in Kent, died after being hit by a rope while competing in the event.