Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Scallywag sailor John Fisher ‘presumed lost at sea’ – crew of Hong Kong boat heartbroken

Volvo Ocean Race president Richard Brisius says the extreme weather and state of the sea means it is unlikely the Briton has survived

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 5:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 5:49pm

Missing sailor John Fisher, who went overboard from Hong Kong boat Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag on Monday night, is presumed to have been lost at sea, Volvo Ocean Race president Richard Brisius said on Tuesday.

The 47-year-old Briton went overboard into the treacherous Southern Ocean while on watch about 1,400 miles from Cape Horn. Scallywag skipper David Witt and his crew conducted an intensive search of the area under difficult conditions but were forced to continue on to the coast of South American as night fell.

“I am extremely sad to inform you that one of our sailors, John Fisher, from Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, is now presumed to have been lost at sea,” said Brisius from Race Control in Alicante, Spain.

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“This is heartbreaking for all of us. As sailors and race organisers, losing a crew member at sea is a tragedy we don’t ever want to contemplate. We are devastated and our thoughts are with John’s family, friends and teammates.”

Search operations are continuing with the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre working with Race Control. A vessel 400 miles away was asked by MRCC to head to the area and is expected to arrive by Wednesday (Hong Kong time).

Fisher, who lives in Adelaide and is a long-time sailing partner of Witt, was wearing safety equipment when he was swept overboard, according to Brisius. Given the near freezing water temperature, strong winds and w

aves, race officials say the chances of finding him are slim.

“Given the cold water temperature and the extreme sea state, along with the time that has now passed since he went overboard, we must now presume that John has been lost at sea,” said Brisius.

“All of us here at the Volvo Ocean Race organisation send our heartfelt condolences out to John’s family, his friends and his teammates and we will do everything in our power to support them in this very difficult time.

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

“Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag has now resumed heading in a north-easterly direction. In fact, the team is currently in a challenging position – the weather is deteriorating and is forecast to be quite severe on Wednesday.

“The crew is, of course, emotionally and physically drained after what they have just experienced. Our sole focus now is to provide all the support and assistance that we can to the team.”

Brisius agreed that many questions remained unanswered, especially with sailors being highly trained to survive on the high seas and modern safety equipment.

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

“We are sure that there will be many questions about how one of our sailors was lost overboard yesterday,” he said. “We can address those after the team has been fully debriefed. Today, our thoughts and prayers go out to John’s family and the entire Scallywag team.”

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.