Tragic Accident Highlights Safety Gear Shortcomings


The United Kingdoms Marine Accident Investigation Branchs report on the death of Simon Speirs highlighted several factors that contributed to Speirs death, as well as the many elements required of successful MOB rescue. The full report, documenting in great detail the events leading up to Speirs going overboard, and the eventual recovery of his body should be required reading for any offshore sailor. You can find it online at:

  1. The board concluded that Speirs tether clip lodged under a cleat where the jackline terminated.
  2. The load on the trapped tether clip caused the clip to bend open, ultimately releasing.
  3. The lifejackets were supplied with an Ocean Signal MOB1 AIS beacon. This personal AIS beacon was activated automatically when the lifejacket was inflated and allowed rescuers to track Speirs. The AIS signal appeared in the plotter two minutes after Speirs tether released to drop him in the water.
  4. The crew employed a combination of tacks, when able to, and gybes to approach Speirs in the water.
    During one gybe the main sheet became caught around the main sheet winch and ripped off the self-tailing mechanism. Additionally, one of the blocks for the main sheet traveller broke. These factors combined to make trimming the mainsail more difficult.
  5. CV30s dan buoy was equipped with an AIS beacon rigged to activate as the buoy was thrown overboard. During Speirs MOB recovery the dan buoys AIS beacon never appeared on CV30s plotter.
Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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