A full on row is brewing now that Clipper Ventures has called for an independent inquiry into both the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch. (MAIB)
This follows the investigations by the agencies into the tragic death of Simon Speirs.
On the 18th November 2017, Simon Speirs, a 60 year old retired solicitor, fell over the side whilst helping to reduce sail. The yacht,CV30, owned by Clipper Ventures, was participating in an around the world race and was experiencing increasing winds and sea state in the Southern Ocean.
Mr Speirs was tethered to the boat but fell overboard due to a freak failure of a tether safety clip.
Buried at sea
Mr Speirs was recovered but could not be resuscitated. His body was buried at sea.
The accident was investigated by both the MCA and MAIB, and it is their conclusions that are causing considerable concern within Clipper Ventures.
Clipper Ventures has called upon the Department for Transport urging them to hold an independent inquiry to establish the full extent of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) investigatory teams’ failure of professionalism, impartiality and honesty.
It is alleged that, after a new enquiry into the actions of the MCA Enforcement Official who had initiated and headed up a number of investigations, multiple errors and distortions of the truth have been discovered.
These include the fact that the MCA had claimed there was a vessel within 60 miles of the yacht that could have taken the body home for burial. The MCA have now admitted this was not true and in fact the nearest vessel was 1500 miles or 5-6 days steaming away.
They have also admitted that Clipper Ventures had advised the Department for Transport and the MCA prior to holding a burial at sea, but their official did not respond.
The MCA have now admitted that in the circumstances Clipper Ventures were right to hold the burial at sea. Yet distress was caused to Mrs Speirs when an MCA Enforcement official told her of this non-existent nearby vessel.
Clipper Ventures claim that the MAIB report issued 20 June 2019 contained a number of errors, including stating Clipper Ventures had not carried out any of their recommendations, which is inaccurate. All recommendations in the report had been implemented, except for the inspection by the MCA which was due to the MCA’s lack of resources.
Clipper Ventures, therefore made the decision to have its systems assessed, and approved, by two independent auditors.
The freak failure of the safety tether on the 18th November 2017 is being examined by the sailing industry. The MAIB report acknowledged Clipper Ventures’ investigation into safety tethers (which was carried out with the MAIB onboard), and its introduction of a double tether system exceed industry standards. However, the industry learnings have been diluted by a number of factual errors in the MAIB report.
The MCA and MAIB investigations followed remarkably parallel courses and it has to be suspected that significant and improper influence was applied to the MAIB investigation by the MCA team.
Clipper Ventures has complained in the past about the lack of impartiality at the MAIB, a belief now held more strongly than ever.
The safety of its crew is the claim the highest priority and has been since the race was first established in 1996.
They said in a statement “Every crew member undergoes four weeks of intensive, rigorous training, specifically designed for ocean racing, of which safety is at the core. This includes sea survival training which is carried out to industry (RYA) standards. All safety equipment on board is industry leading with every crew member equipped with a personal AIS beacon in lifejackets. Each yacht is fully crewed and crew members are ‘off watch’ for between ten to fourteen hours in each 24 hour period. The watch system is designed to ensure each crew member has enough rest during the race.”