British sailor John Fisher, from Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, is now presumed to have been lost at sea after going overboard on Sunday afternoon in rough weather.
While no details have been released on exactly what happened, the team was apparently battling big seas and 35-plus knot winds at the time of the incident and was in the heart of the Southern Ocean about 1,400 miles west of Cape Horn, according to Trade Only sister publication, Sail magazine.
According to the Volvo Ocean Race, the team searched for several hours before finally calling off its search.
“This morning 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 Volvo Ocean Race president Richard Brisius in a statement.
“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,” Brisius said. “We are devastated, and our thoughts are with John's family, friends and teammates.”
After learning that a man had fallen overboard, Volvo Ocean Race immediately coordinated with the team as well as the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, which sent a ship towards the scene.
The location was more than a day away, Brisius said.
With the rest of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet approximately 200 miles downwind, sending them back upwind to assist, against gale to storm force winds, was not a viable option, he said.
The Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag team conducted an exhaustive search for several hours in “extremely challenging weather conditions,” but were unable to recover their teammate, Brisius said.
Fisher, 47, was competing in his first Volvo Ocean Race but had years of open-ocean, big-boat experience, according to sister publication Soundings.
“Despite the dangers of the sport, he loved sailing. He is one of our own, a long-standing member of the team. He is a great and experienced sailor, the finest human being and a true Scallywag,” said Lee Seng Huang, owner of Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag via Facebook.
“Today, our thoughts and prayers go out to John's family and the entire Scallywag team,” Brisius said.