Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Scallywag sailor John Fisher missing: search operations under way after man overboard incident on Hong Kong boat

The Englishman was reported by skipper David Witt to have gone overboard at about 9.42pm on Monday, Hong Kong time

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 8:28am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 11:05pm

Rescue operations are under way in the search for British sailor John Fisher, 47, who fell overboard from Hong Kong-owned boat Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag during leg seven of the Volvo Ocean Race from Auckland to Itajai.

Race Control confirmed a man overboard incident at 9.42pm (Hong Kong time) on Monday and that it was Southampton-born Fisher, a long-time sailing partner of Scallywag skipper David Witt.

The incident took place about 1,400 miles west of Cape Horn – from where the seven-boat fleet was set turn north on their way to Itajai in Brazil, having started from Auckland, New Zealand.

All other crew members are reported to be safe. Fisher was reported to have been wearing survival equipment when he went overboard.

The fleet is now in the hostile Southern Ocean, one of the most testing legs of the 11-leg race in which crews are facing cold weather, at times gale force winds, icebergs and rough seas.

“Given the gale force conditions it is not an option to divert any of the other six Volvo Ocean Race competitors, who are at least 200 miles further east and downwind of Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, to assist in the search operation,” Race Control said in a statement.

“The MRCC [Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre] has identified a ship approximately 400 nautical miles away and it has been diverted to the scene.

“Naturally we are deeply concerned, especially given the weather conditions, and Race Control in Alicante is supporting the Scallywag team and MRCC throughout the operation.”

This is the second time Scallywag has suffered a man overboard incident. Alex Gough fell into the water on leg four from Melbourne to Hong Kong – the leg that Scallywag won in a dramatic come-from-behind triumph – but was rescued almost immediately.

Fisher, who lives in Adelaide, Australia, is a veteran member of Ragamuffin (Scallywag’s old name) and has sailed on several Sydney to Hobart races.

“We are deeply saddened to hear the news and our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family and the Scallywag crew. John’s next of kin have been notified of the situation and further updates will be shared as and when they become available,” said Race Control.

Scallywag fell almost 200 nautical miles behind the fleet during the race but the boat went off the tracker after the incident. It was not clear if Scallywag was involved in search operations.

Team Brunel was leading the fleet ahead of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Dongfeng Race Team, Turn the Tide on Plastic, Mapfre and Team AkzoNobel

There were message of support from other teams, all of whom have forged a close bond during the months of racing with crew members often changing boats during the race.

“All our thoughts with our Scallywag friends,” tweeted Turn the Tide on Plastic.

Spain’s overall leader Mapfre tweeted: “All our support to Scallywag. Our thoughts are with the team, their friends and families.”

China’s Dongfeng tweeted: “All our thoughts at Dongfeng Race Team are with our friends on Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag at this very difficult time...”

In May 2006, Dutchman Hans Horrevoets died when he was washed overboard while sailing for ABN Amro in the Volvo Ocean Race. His body was recovered.

There were fatal accidents in 1989 and 1973 as well.

In January, a Chinese fisherman was killed when his vessel was involved in a collision with Vestas 30 miles from the finish line in Hong Kong.