IN THE REMOTE SOUTHERN OCEAN — A veteran rough seas sailor competing in the Volvo Ocean Race was presumed dead after going overboard in a harsh, remote stretch of ocean around 1,400 miles west of Cape Horn, officials said.
John Fisher, a 47-year-old native of Britain who lived in Adelaide, Australia, was swept overboard from the Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag’s 65-foot sloop in fierce weather conditions Monday, the competition’s organizer said.
Officials of the round-the-world race say the team searched for several hours in gale force winds and big waves before increasingly dangerous conditions forced them to resume course toward South America.
Given the ferocious conditions, it was impossible for the rest of the fleet — which was more than 200 miles away when Fisher disappeared — to join the search
“We must now presume that John has been lost at sea,” race president Richard Brisius said in a statement issued nearly 24 hours after Fisher was lost.
“This is heartbreaking for all of us,” Brisius said. “As sailors and race organizers, 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.”
Race officials said Fisher was on watch and wearing appropriate survival gear when he went overboard. He was an experienced big boat sailor who was sailing in his first Volvo Ocean Race, the team’s website said.
Earlier in the race, a crewman on the same ship was swept overboard but was rescued within minutes. Skipper David Witt said at the time that the sailor was lucky to be alive.
The teams are currently on the seventh leg of the round-the-world trip, going from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil. The entire race covers some 45,000 nautical miles.