Skipper from Skegness and crew in round world race arrive in Australia after tragedy at sea - in second place

The GREAT Britain entry in the Clipper  Round The World yatch race.
The GREAT Britain entry in the Clipper Round The World yatch race.

A skipper from Skegness and his crew on the GREAT Britain and entry in the Clipper Round the World race have arrived in Austraiia in second place.

In a demonstration of true grit after the death of their valued team member, Simon Speirs, the team docked at Freemantle near Perth in second place, close beind Unicef.

GREAT Britain skipper Andy Burns ANL-171120-180622001

GREAT Britain skipper Andy Burns ANL-171120-180622001

GREAT Britain was in rough seas in the Southern Ocean heading for Australia when 60-year-old retired solicitor Simon Speirs, of Bristol, became separated from the 70ft vessel while helping to change a sail.

The yacht, one of 12 in the race, is currently in second place and due to arrive in Freemantle near Perth at lunchtime today when the crew completes the third leg of the year-long test of endurance.

After the tragedy Skipper Andrew Burns, 32 - a former Skegness Grammar School boy who served on the local RNLI lifeboat - spoke of his agony after the tragedy and said he was facing ‘one of the hardest moments’ of his career.

He and his crew had fought bravely to save Mr Speirs and got him back on board within 36 minutes. However, in spite of the medics working for nearly an hour to resuscitate him, he never regained consciousness.

Clipper Round the World Race crew member Simon Speirs. ANL-171120-180056001

Clipper Round the World Race crew member Simon Speirs. ANL-171120-180056001

Mr Speirs, who at the time was clipped on, was wearing a lifejacket packed with an AIS (automatic identification system) beacon and approved waterproof ocean oilskins, was given a Christian burial at sea on Sunday, which was conducted by Andrew.

In today’s ’s blog from GREAT Britain, Andy said: “Today is the grand finale for which we are all hoping for a bitter sweet ending to such a tragic crossing of the Southern Ocean.

“As a skipper it has been hard to get back on the horse but the e-mails of support willing us on and willing us to push to the end from friends, family, past and future crew, and most importantly from Simon’s family have been a game changer so I must thank you all for that.

“I just want to take my hat off to the crew onboard GREAT Britain for their grit, determination and drive in the face of adversity. They have dealt and help me deal with this tragic event and for that I am truly grateful and honoured to have such close and loyal crew by my side.”

The GREAT Britain entry in the Clipper  Round The World yatch race. ANL-171120-175720001

The GREAT Britain entry in the Clipper Round The World yatch race. ANL-171120-175720001

Former colleagues of the RNLI in Skegness have also been in touch with Andrew offering their support since the tragedy.

Coxwain Richard Watson said: “The thoughts of everyone at Skegness Lifeboat are today with our ex-crewman.

“Andy is an excellent Skipper who we know has trained hard for many years to get where he is today.

“However, this tragedy shows that despite all the training and having the best equipment accidents can, and will, happen at sea.”

Andrew’s stepfather Tim, who was also a member of the RNLI here in Skegness, and his girlfriend Charlie Saunders have flown out to be with Andy and his crew when the boat gets into Freemantle today.

An investigation will take place into the incident, which is the third death in the event in recent years.

Co-founder of the race Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “We train hard to get people back if they go over, and indeed they did a brilliant job - getting him back in 36 minutes, which in those conditions is very, very good indeed.

“It shows the training really did cut in properly and the crew did a very good job.

“There were three medics on board, a surgeon, a doctor and a paramedic - really that boat was strong from a medical standpoint.

“They all worked for nearly an hour to resuscitate him, but he never regained consciousness.

“If it was possible to bring him around, that was the team to do it.

“They seemed to have handled it incredibly well. There was a very good ethos of safety on that boat - it was a safe boat.”

Follow the progress of GREAT Britain at on the Clipper Round the World website. The arrivals will be broadcast live on the Clipper Facebook page where you can send your messages of support.