The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published an interim report on the investigation of the fatal accident on board the Clipper yacht CV21, 122 nautical miles (NM) west of Porto, Portugal on 4 September 2015.

Please note: The information contained in this interim report is based on investigations to date. Readers are cautioned that there is the possibility new evidence may become available that might alter the circumstances as depicted in this report.

All times in this report are UTC+1.


At around midnight on 4 September 2015, Andrew Ashman, a watchleader on the sailing yacht CV21 was killed during an uncontrolled gybe as the crew were preparing to reef the mainsail.

CV21 was participating in the 2015-2016 Clipper Round The World Yacht Race, and at the time of the accident was 122NM west off the Portuguese coast on passage to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

On board were its professional yacht skipper and 21 fee-paying amateur sailors who had been divided into two watches named port and starboard watches respectively. The starboard watch, with the exception of three crew designated below-deck duties, were on deck with the watchleader, Andrew Ashman, in charge. The crew were all wearing oilskins, head torches and lifejackets with tethers that were attached to a secure point on deck.

CV21 was following a south-westerly course at a speed over the ground (SOG) of approximately 11 knots. Since taking over the watch nearly two hours previously, the wind strength and seas had steadily increased until, at 2345, Andrew decided that the mainsail needed to be reefed, the skipper, who was below in the cabin agreed. At this time Andrew was standing aft of the traveller rail and to port of the helmsman.

At approximately 2356, Andrew moved forward from the stern of the cockpit to brief his crew when the yacht suddenly moved across the swell and wind. This caused the wind to catch the leech of the mainsail pulling it back, causing tension on the gybe preventer line. The strop securing the preventer line to the bow, broke, releasing the boom, which moved swiftly to starboard across the cockpit in an uncontrolled gybe.

The yacht then performed a second uncontrolled gybe with the boom swinging back onto the port side, before the helmsman was able to regain control. During the uncontrolled gybes Andrew sustained a fatal neck injury and could not be resuscitated despite the efforts of his crew mates.


The investigation has examined all aspects of the operation and management of the yacht in order to determine the causes and circumstances of the accident. This work has focused on the following key areas:

  • The events leading up to the accidental gybes.
  • The construction of the gybe preventer assembly.
  •  The actions necessary to prevent recurrence.


A draft report of the MAIB investigation is due to be distributed to key stakeholders in October 2016.

An interim report is published by the MAIB when a full investigation report will not be published within 12 months of the accident date.