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Clipper Ventures Statement on MAIB Report

20 June 2019

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report on the fatality onboard CV30 in the Clipper 2017-18 Race has been issued today. In addition a press statement has been issued by the Speirs family. Please see below for a statement from Clipper Ventures and a summary of key factual inaccuracies within both the MAIB report and the subsequent press release.

Clipper Ventures Statement

We were and continue to be very saddened at the death of Simon Speirs and our thoughts are with his family. The safety of our crew is our highest priority and has been since the race was established in 1996. Every crew member undergoes four weeks of intensive, rigorous training, specifically designed for ocean racing, of which safety is at the core. This includes sea survival training which is carried out to industry (RYA) standards. All safety equipment on board is industry leading with every crew member equipped with a personal AIS beacon in lifejackets.

Each yacht is fully crewed and crew members are ‘off watch’ for between ten to fourteen hours in each 24 hour period. The watch system is designed to ensure each crew member has enough rest during the race.

We have followed previous safety recommendations from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), and not “ignored” them as previously stated in the MAIB report. We have had our safety system independently reviewed, as the MCA has not been able to allocate the resources to do so.

During eleven editions, 5000 people have taken part in the Clipper Race, organised by parent company Clipper Ventures. Every measure possible is taken to ensure the safety of our crew.

Factual inaccuracies within both the MAIB report and associated statements:

It is factually incorrect to state that Clipper Ventures has ignored previous MAIB recommendations. Specifically, Clipper Ventures:

– Is installing navigation plotters on deck at the helming position
– Implemented new passage planning procedures
– Introduced a paid, professionally qualified ‘Additional Qualified Person’ (AQP) to aid each of the Clipper Race Skippers

Simon Speirs did have a dry suit, he chose not to wear it on 18th November 2017.

The reference to a nearby vessel, that could have taken Simon’s body, is factually incorrect. This was a mistake made by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which it subsequently admitted. The MCA confirmed to Clipper Ventures that they had informed the Speirs family of this mistake. The nearest suitable vessel to the Clipper Race yacht was a minimum of six days away. The MCA was notified four hours before the burial at sea.

The below is an additional response to the MAIB Report:

Clipper Ventures Response to MAIB Report issued 20 June 2019

The MAIB report issued on 20 June 2019 was written in response to the sad death of crew member, Simon Speirs, aboard the Clipper Race Yacht CV30 on 18th November 2017 following a freak failure of a tether safety clip.

The MAIB report makes three recommendations to Clipper Ventures, none of which concern the safety clip.

With regards to report section 2019/113, Clipper Ventures has been asked to take account of any safety management guidance and direction provided by the MCA – The Maritime Coastguard Agency has been unable to find the resources so far to provide Clipper Ventures with guidance and direction and we have been waiting for them to contact us to look into maritime safety issues for 18 months. However, in view of this delay, we have had our systems assessed by two outside auditors.

Regarding the two recommendations that form report section 2019/114, to review and amend Clipper 70 yacht maintenance and repair processes to minimise additional workload on crew during the Race, what the report is unable to recognise is that damage will occur on boats sailing in the more demanding waters of the world and crews have to be able to make repairs when at sea. Clipper Race crews are taught a number of additional skills, like sail repairs, engine maintenance, etc so they can deal with such incidents immediately, while at sea. To support this, and ensure that the boats are ready for their next leg, Clipper Ventures sends a strong, experienced maintenance team to every stopover to attend to more complicated repairs, or brings in local experts.

The ingress of water into the Lazarette, mentioned in the report, caused by a leaking rudder gaiter, was fixed in Punta del Este. The leaks in the forepeak from the bobstay chainplate were attended to by the Maintenance Team in Punta del Este at the end of Leg 1, seven weeks before the accident.  

It is also important to highlight that the report contains a further number of factual inaccuracies.

The report states that at the time of publication (20th June 2019) a number of previous recommendations had not been implemented. This is inaccurate as the following actions have been implemented:

– An Additional Qualified Person was added to all boats in Fremantle during the 2017-18 edition and have been recruited for the forthcoming race. The MAIB report actually acknowledges this elsewhere in its content, so we do not understand why their report states we have not responded to this recommendation.
– A plotter (an electronic navigation aid) at the helm position is being fitted.
– A new detailed passage plan form has been introduced for the next race
– With regards to report section 2.7.2 serious damage has always been reported to the IIMS surveyors as they have to approve repairs. This is not made clear in this report

This is not an exhaustive list of the actions taken. Clipper Ventures continues to investigate any new ideas that might improve safety aboard its boats from its tough training regime to sailing in rough waters.

Clipper Ventures’ investigation into safety tethers, (please note- which had the MAIB in attendance onboard during said investigation), and subsequent introduction of a double tether system that exceeds the ISO standard, is acknowledged in this report.

Accidents and incidents are always investigated by a team of experienced circumnavigators within the company.