THE first yachts from the Clipper Round the World Yacht race are due in Fremantle this weekend following a taxing leg that saw an experienced English sailor drown in gale force winds.
Former solicitor Simon Speirs (60) was buried at sea after falling from the 21-metre yacht Great Britain last Saturday. He’d been wearing a new style of tether, and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch is due to meet the boat in Fremantle to determine why it failed.
Former local Clipper sailor Megan Thomas had her own brush with disaster in 2010 when Uniquely Singapore was knocked down in storms and several crew members were washed overboard. She was pinned down in the cockpit during the drama, but luckily all on board escaped with little more than bruises.
Ms Thomas says while the crews will understandably be a little sombre when they hit Fremantle, she says that’s a good reason for locals to welcome the sailors.
“There are a number of us in the Perth/Fremantle area that have previously taken part in the race and we’re stoked it’s back to where it should be,” Ms Thomas said.
This year’s the first time in the last decade that the Clipper’s stopped past Fremantle.
Ms Thomas said the Fremantle Sailing Club will be hosting the boats and has a couple of good community events on.
On Monday November 27 from 10am to 6pm there’ll be tours of the clippers, on Wednesday November 29 there’ll be a talk at the sailing club at 6pm and then next Saturday the racers head off again on their way to Sydney.
Ms Thomas reckons the sailors, support crews, organisers, family members and spectators bring in at least $1 million to the local economy, but says Fremantle council hasn’t capitalised on “this potential gold mine”.
by STEVE GRANT