Volvo Ocean Race organizers have said that they now presume British sailor John Fisher to have been "lost at sea." Fisher fell overboard during the seventh stage of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Richard Brisius, the president of the Volvo Ocean Race, has declared John Fisher (pictured) "lost at sea" after the British sailor went missing on Monday.
Fisher, 47, was reported to have fallen overboard from Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag's 65-foot sloop during Monday's seventh stage of the race, some 1,400 nautical miles from Cape Horn on the tip of South America, amid gale force winds and water temperatures estimated to be nine degrees Celsius (48.2 Fahrenheit). He was on watch and wearing survival gear, organizers said.
"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," Brisius said in a statement on Tuesday.
"This is heart-breaking for all of us. As sailors and race organizers, 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."
Scallywag search called off
The Scallywag crew, of which all other members were reported safe, was forced to head towards land after searching for Fisher in a strong westerly wind of 35-knots with the assistance of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) for nearly 12 hours.
The stage during which the incident happened was a 14,075-kilometer (8750 miles) leg from Auckland New Zealand to the Brazilian city of Itajai. The rest of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet were approximately 200 miles downwind from where the incident occurred, Brisius said. "Sending them back upwind to assist, against gale to storm force winds, was not a viable option."
The MRCC continued search and rescue efforts but were hampered by darkness and increasingly deteriorated weather conditions.
Fisher, who resided in Adelaide, Australia, was an experienced big boat sailor who was sailing in his first Volvo Ocean Race.
This year's race — which, at 45,000 nautical miles, is the longest in the competition's 44-year history — had already been marred by tragedy when Vestas 11th Hour Racing collided with a fishing boat on its way to Hong Kong, killing a fisherman.
dv/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa)