In retrospect it seems incredible that over 20 years of racing, not a single one of the approximately 3,300 amateur sailors taking part in the Clipper Round the World Race has been lost. Unfortunately, that perfect record ended this past September shortly after the start of the running of the 2015-16 event when English sailor Andrew Ashman, 49, was fatally injured aboard the one-design Clipper 70 IchorCoal off the coast of Portugal, midway through Leg 1 from England to Brazil.
According to the boat’s professional skipper, Darren Ladd, the crew was reefing the main in moderate seas and 25-knot winds shortly after midnight when Ashman was knocked unconscious by the mainsheet and possibly the boom. He was given immediate medical assistance, but never regained consciousness.
Although the boat immediately diverted to Porto, Portugal, it rejoined the race soon afterward with the crew saying it would continue racing in Ashman’s memory, a decision supported by Ashman’s brother, Keith, who spent two days with the crew in Porto. At press time an inquiry into the accident was ongoing.
“This is extremely sad news, and my heart goes out to his bereaved family and friends, and to his fellow crew who have come to know Andrew with great affection during his training and the early days of this race,” said Clipper Race founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. “Safety is always our utmost priority, as our record shows, and we shall investigate the incident immediately in full cooperation with the authorities.”
“We have obviously still got some soul searching and grieving to do, but different people are affected at different times, and the best way to deal with that is as a team,” said Ladd. “We are absolutely going to support each other through this. We are going to focus on the race and use the emotions that we feel as a positive force to carry on.”
For more on the the accident and the 2015-16 Clipper Race, in which 12 paying crews will sail 40,000 miles in stages around the globe, visit clipperroundtheworld.com.
Photos courtesy of Clipper Venturesrld