Eight Bells: John Fisher - Sail Magazine

Eight Bells: John Fisher

Another sailor is lost in the Volvo Ocean Race
Author:
Updated:
Original:
           Sailor John Fisher   

           Sailor John Fisher   

“This is the worst situation you can imagine happening to your team,” said Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag team manager Tim Newton late last March, and he wasn’t exaggerating. Mere hours earlier, he’d been informed by skipper David Witt that crewman John Fisher of Southampton, England, had been lost overboard about 1,400 miles west of Cape Horn as the boat was battling through the Southern Ocean as part of Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

According to reports, the sun was just coming up following a stormy night. Apparently, Fisher had temporarily unclipped his harness to help tidy up the rigging forward, when the boat unexpectedly gybed and the mainsheet swept him overboard.

The crew immediately stopped racing and did its best to motor back to where Fisher was lost. Unfortunately, they were never able to find any sign of either the two recure buoys they’d deployed or Fisher, and with the conditions rapidly deteriorating, they had no choice but to continue on to Chile. It is believed Fisher was also knocked unconscious when he was swept overboard.

Afterward, Newton said that his team would do everything it could to ensure any lessons that can be learned from what happened to John are incorporated by the rest of the fleet going forward, adding: “That would be a tremendous legacy for John.”

However, while it’s important that everything that can be done is done to ensure the safety of the sailors in the VOR—and with all due respect to Newton—John Fisher’s “legacy” hardly needs any further burnishing.

For the rest of us, the extreme nature of the VOR is all part of the fun. However, for the competitors, it’s also deadly serious, and they know full well what they’re getting themselves into before they cast off. Fisher is not the first competitor to have lost his life in the course of a VOR or its predecessor, the Whitbread. In fact, he is the sixth.

Which is not to say the Volvo Ocean Race is some kind of death cult. Just the opposite. With its challenges, it teamwork, it physical hardships and, yes, even its danger, it’s a celebration of life at its very best—not just for those taking part, but also for those of us privileged enough to look on and watch what these sailor are up to with nothing less than awe. There’s no need to somehow justify Fisher’s end, no matter how tragic. His own actions speak louder than words.

Bottom line: while anything “positive” that can be gained from Fisher’s passing should be applauded, it’s not really necessary. At the end of the day, he was a brave sailor and by all accounts a fine shipmate, doing what he loved best and competing at the absolutely highest levels of the game: a game that is among the noblest endeavors ever devised by man. Not to minimize the sadness of his loss or in any way trivialize the pain being experienced by his friends and family, but what better legacy could anyone hope for than that?

For more the latest on the VOR, which concludes this month in the Netherlands, visit sailmagazine.com/racing/volvo-ocean-race. 

Related

Photo-by-Adobe-Stockpics721-2048x

Webinar: Navigating Post-Dorian Abaco

On Thursday, October 22 at 6 pm ET, Navigare Yachting presents a webinar on what to expect from Abaco post-Dorian. The event will feature the authors of The Cruising Guide to Abaco, Steve Dodge and his sons Jon and Jeff.Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco in early September of 2019 and ...read more

LunaRossaBoat2

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Christens “Boat 2”

Hot on the heels of the UK’s Britannia and the United States’ Patriot, Italy’s new AC75 Luna Rossa, formerly known as Boat 2, was christened in Auckland, New Zealand, this morning. As the moniker suggests, it was Team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s second design. In his christening ...read more

m7803_DSCF6698-1

Challengers Christen Britannia and Patriot

October 16 proved an exciting day for America’s Cup fans with the christening of both the UK’s Britannia and America’s Patriot. Britannia will be helmed by four-time Olympic gold medalist and America’s Cup winner Sir Ben Ainslie. Olympic Gold medalist Giles Scott will serve as ...read more

HookPromo

Defender Product Spotlight: Lowrance Hook Reveal

Defender product expert Alex Lyons explains the benefits of HOOK Reveal’s new FishReveal technology: “DownScan sonar uses high frequencies to provide a picture-like image of the sea floor. The traditional sonar’s lower frequencies are best suited for locating fish in the water ...read more

701820_promo

Defender Product Spotlight: Lumitec Poco Lighting Control

Several key features of the Lumitec Poco Lighting Control system stand out right away. First, it is a 2-wire system, so the average wiring-savvy boater can install or retrofit the controls without an engineering degree. Second, it works with any Power Line Instruction (PLI) ...read more

Isotherm

Defender Product Spotlight: Isotherm Refrigeration Component System

Retrofitting a refrigeration cooling system has never been easier thanks to Isotherm’s quick mount bracket. And installation is more than half the fun of boat projects, right? These refrigeration component systems also have one of the smallest footprints on the market, and the ...read more

WaveBreaker

Defender Product Spotlight: Superior Wave Breaker Life Raft

Designed for a hardcore offshore application, Superior Life-Saving’s Wave Breaker life rafts are heavy duty, easy to board, insulated and feature many benefits, including an industry-leading 4-square-feet of space per person aboard. The Wave Breaker line of life rafts is ...read more

003536D2

Defender Product Spotlight: Lewmar Heavy Duty Inflatable Yacht Fenders

After using the Lewmar Heavy Duty Inflatable Yacht Fender, you’ll never want to hoist another fender aboard your cruiser or sportfish. Made from 30% heavier material than the next best brand, it features 15% more tensile strength to provide protection for your hull when docking ...read more