It's the Ultimate Sailing Adventure. It Killed Him

The 'Guardian' looks at the Clipper Round the World yacht race
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
He Joined a Round-the-World Race, Died Doing It
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / IPGGutenbergUKLtd)

"Simon Speirs is exactly the sort of person Robin Knox-Johnston, the veteran sailor, had in mind when he founded the Clipper Round the World yacht race more than 25 years ago," writes Sally Williams for the Guardian. Speirs is also dead, killed in 2017 while partaking in that very race. Clipper is a biennial event that gives amateur sailors the chance to race around the world, assisted by a skipper and first mate who know what they're doing. Eleven yachts set out, each holding between 16 and 22 amateurs, who have paid roughly $60,000 for the chance to sail 40,000 nautical miles over 11 months. Emphasis on amateur: no experience is required, and about 40% of the people who participate have none.

Knox-Johnston—the first person to sail solo, nonstop, around the globe in 1969—insists safety is paramount. A former employee says the race leaves participants seeing a formerly pastel world in "bright colors." Speirs' widow disagrees, saying the company's goal is revenue over caution (in addition to the participants' fees, the race now attracts big-name sponsors). As Williams tells it, three months into the race, Speirs—who did have sailing experience—was exhausted enough to ask for a break from serving as leader of the watch. On the day of his death, a huge wave swept him overboard during bad weather. The 60-year-old was tethered to the boat, but his harness clip broke as the crew tried to bring him in. When they finally succeeded 32 minutes later, he was dead. (Read the fascinating full story for much more on the race, which has seen other fatalities.)

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