Skip to main content

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

fa70b13c-8eec-4c35-b30f-f89e497b469a

Crowdsourcing Age-of-Sail Weather Data

Although big, multi-million-dollar projects like the Large Hadron Collider and the human genome project with their legions of PHD’s tend to grab headlines, there’s still a part of play for the “citizen scientists” of the world. Amateur birders have long contributed to an ...read more

01-LEAD-Ultime-race-Yvan-Zedda,-OC-Sport-Pen-Duick

Ultims to Race Solo Around the World

For years now, maxi-trimarans, both solo-sailed and fully crewed, have been racing the clock on their own around the world in an effort to set ever faster records for the world’s fastest circumnavigation under sail. Back in 2000-01 there was also a no-holds-barred ...read more

P1-01-LEAD-018_CARYNBDAVIS_AMISTAD

Juneteenth on the Water

Discovering Amistad and Mystic Seaport Museum have partnered to organize their third annual Juneteenth festival, featuring concerts, speakers and a reflection on the lasting legacy of racial injustice in America. Declared a National Holiday in 2021, Juneteenth celebrates the end ...read more

Lead-2021-01-17-vue-03-34-av-tb-01

New Multihulls for 2022

Lagoon 51 In keeping with many of the more recently launched models created by French multihull builder Lagoon, the Lagoon 51 is all about comfort, “en plein air,” in particular, as the French might say. Topside, a whopping 80 percent of the boat’s flybridge is given over to ...read more

bermuda

How to Spectate on the Newport Bermuda

The biannual Newport Bermuda Race starts on Friday with the first warning signal at 1 pm. Whether you’re tracking a loved one’s progress or just spectating an event that draws pros and weekend warriors alike, there are plenty of ways to stay up to watch. The starting line will ...read more

03-Hyeres-220429_SOF2022_SAILINGENERGY_1933_3184-copy

US Sailing Strikes Gold in Hyères

After being skunked or nearly skunked at multiple Olympiads, could the US Sailing Team (USST) now under the direction of Olympic veteran Paul Cayard, be finally turning it around? If its performance at the 53rd French Olympic Week regatta in Hyères, France, where the team posted ...read more

P1480042

New York City’s Newest Fleet

120 children enrolled in Brooklyn Boatworks’ STEM and life skills-focused program launched their hand-built optimist prams on June 14 from Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The launch is the culmination of years of student work, with boats in process before the pandemic caused the ...read more

AdobeStock_197518370

Charter: Off the Beaten Path

So, you like to charter in the Caribbean with its warm waters, swaying palm trees, steady trade winds and strong rum drinks. What’s not to love? It can be easy, though, to get stuck in a rut when chartering year after year in the same place. Sure, the British Virgin Islands are ...read more