SAN DIEGO — Volvo Race officials said late Monday that chances of finding a missing sailor were rapidly fading in the harsh, remote Southern Ocean some 1,400 miles west of Cape Horn.
John Fisher, a native of Britain who now lives in Adelaide, Australia, had been in the frigid water in rough conditions for some 12 hours when race officials said in a statement that “we acknowledge the chances of a successful recovery are diminishing.”
Fisher, 47, an experienced big boat sailor who was sailing in his first Volvo Ocean Race, was reported overboard from Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag’s 65-foot sloop Monday. He was on watch and wearing appropriate survival gear, according to the statement.
The Maritime Rescue Coordination Center continued to lead efforts to recover Fisher. Because of deteriorating conditions, Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag turned downwind and headed toward the South American coast, the nearest safe landfall.
Earlier, the team was searching for Fisher in a strong 35-knot westerly wind, with accompanying sea state. The water temperature was reported as 9-degrees Celsius (48.2 degrees Fahrenheit).
Due to the gale force conditions, it wasn’t an option for officials to divert any of the other six yachts, which were at least 200 miles east and downwind of Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, to assist in the search.
Officials said a ship was diverted, but that it was some 400 nautical miles away.
Fisher was a veteran of the Sydney-Hobart, one of the world’s top, and toughest, offshore races, the team’s website said.
Earlier in the race, Scallywag crewman Alex Gough fell overboard during a sail change and was rescued within seven minutes.
This edition of the classic round-the world race already had been tarnished by a collision involving Vestas 11th Hour Racing and a fishing boat that killed a fisherman. The collision sank the fishing boat and caused severe damage to the racing yacht, forcing it to miss the next two legs.
The teams are on Leg 7 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil. It will cover 7,600 nautical miles. The entire race will cover some 45,000 nautical miles.
In May 2006, Dutch sailor Hans Horrevoets was swept overboard when a wave hit ABN AMRO TWO in the Atlantic Ocean. The crew turned back and found Horrevoets but could not revive him.