Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Missing sailor ‘finest human being and a true Scallywag’ – Hong Kong owner Lee Seng Huang pays tribute to John Fisher

Sun Hung Kai executive says he and the company are devastated by the news after the 47-year-old went overboard on Monday in the Southern Ocean

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 4:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 4:55pm

The Hong Kong owner of Volvo Ocean Race boat Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, Lee Seng Huang, on Tuesday described missing sailor John Fisher as “the finest human being and a true Scallywag”.

Although there have been no reports that the search for the 47-year-old Fisher has been called off, Lee’s first public statement since Fisher went overboard on Monday night (HK time) had the air of an obituary – just hours after race organisers admitted the chances finding him in the dark and in strong winds was slim.

Hopes fading for missing Scallywag sailor John Fisher after he went overboard from Hong Kong Volvo Ocean Race boat

“We are devastated by the news involving our crew member, John Fisher, following a man overboard incident early on Monday afternoon UTC,” said a joint statement by Lee and Sun Hung Kai & Co.

“Witty [skipper David Witt] and the Scallywag crew have been battling extremely treacherous conditions in the Southern Ocean and this tragedy is heart breaking.

“The crew did everything they could to recover John, leading an extensive search and rescue operation in stormy conditions. Now, with the forecast worsening and night falling, the team has made the difficult decision to head for landfall, 1,200 nautical miles away in South America.

“Over our long passages, I have come to know Fish well. Despite the dangers of the sport he loved his sailing. He is one of our own, a long-standing member of the team. He is a great and experienced sailor, the finest human being and a true Scallywag.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family and the crew at this most difficult time, and we are working with Volvo Ocean Race to provide all the support we can. Our focus now, is getting the boat and crew to a safe harbour.”

Fisher was reportedly on watch when he went overboard and race officials said he was wearing safety equipment.

Lee bought Ragamuffin from famed Australian sailor Syd Fischer after the 2015 Sydney to Hobart race and renamed it Scallywag.

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

Retaining the crew skippered by Witt, the boat set speed records from its new base in Hong Kong, including a new landmark in the Hong Kong to Hainan race (23 hours, 31 minutes and 52 seconds), third place in the 2016 Sydney-Hobart and most recently smashing the record in the San Fernando Race from Hong Kong to the Philippines by more than 15 hours (34:27.15).

His decision to finance Scallywag’s entry into the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race was hailed by Witt, who said it would provide fresh impetus to develop sailing in Hong Kong – and his faith was strengthened further when Scallywag won an emotional fourth leg from Melbourne to its home port in Hong Kong in January.

John Fisher talks about Hong Kong being “home” during leg four

Fisher spoke to while in Auckland for the stopover from Hong Kong after Scallywag finished second. He talked about the boat’s heating system that would come in useful during the cold days and nights in the Southern Ocean.

“It’s surprising how a few tubes can bring so much comfort,” he was quoted as saying while acting as a tour guide for the boat.

“We hook it up to the engine, and push the warm air around the boat. It’s no fireplace, but when you’re in the middle of the Southern Ocean, you will take any additional heat you can find.

“I love the fact that I get to show the boat in its current state, because it will never be this clean and it definitely won’t smell this good when we are a week into the leg.”