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After 2 deaths, MAIB urges Clipper organizer to check race safety

In the past two years, two participants in the Clipper Round the World yacht race have died in maritime accidents. Now, Britain's Marine Accident Investigation Branch is recommending that the race's organizers review and, if necessary, revise both its shore-based management procedures and its yacht-manning policies. Furthermore, the agency urges Clipper Ventures Plc to challenge all participating skippers to make certain safe work practices are adhered to during the race.

According to the BBC, 40-year-old Londoner Sarah Young was washed overboard in the Pacific leg of the race last April. Her body was recovered, but she was buried at sea. Andrew Ashman, a 49-year-old paramedic also from London, was struck in the neck by a boom in September 2015 and died from his injuries.

The founder and chairman of the Clipper Race said he welcomes the MAIB's findings, although he stressed that the organization holds itself to standards "often well in excess" of British guidelines. He also said that the race's safety procedures are constantly under review and will continue to be, considering the tragedies.

He believes the two fatal accidents "were caused primarily through momentary lapses in applying basic safety training."

Captain Steven Clinch, chief inspector of marine accidents for the MAIB, said the cause of the accidents was somewhat more complicated.

During the race, largely amateur and some novice crews are expected to operate under extremely hostile weather and sea conditions. "In such circumstances, there is a practical limit to how the safety of crews can be monitored and therefore, much reliance is placed on the expertise and judgement of each boat's skipper to ensure a strong safety culture is followed by everyone on board. This places a huge responsibility on one person, given the enduring challenges presented during the Clipper Round the World Race."

While acknowledging that Clipper Ventures Plc has already taken steps to address the safety shortfalls, Clinch felt the organizers had more to do before it could be confident that no more serious or fatal accidents would occur.

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