Wellington, March 26, 2018 (AFP) - - A high-seas search was underway Tuesday after a Volvo Ocean Race crew member washed overboard amid gale-force winds in the hostile Southern Ocean, race organisers said.
They said Briton John Fisher went missing from the yacht SKH/Scallywag at 1342 GMT Monday some 2,250 kilometres (1,400 miles) west of Cape Horn on the tip of South America.
The rest of Scallywag's crew was unharmed and were helping coordinating a rescue effort with Chilean search and rescue authorities.
"Naturally we are deeply concerned, especially given the weather conditions," organisers said.
Fisher had survival gear on before he entered the water, where temperatures are estimated at nine degrees Celsius (48.2 Fahrenheit).
Race control in Alicante, Spain, said a ship in the area where Fisher went missing had been diverted to look for the sailor.
"There is daylight, but weather conditions are forecast to deteriorate in the coming hours," they said.
"Given the gale force conditions it is not an option to divert any of the other six Volvo Ocean Race competitors, who are at least 200 miles further east and downwind."
The Race fleet set off from Auckland on March 18 on the toughest stretch of the around-the-world race.
The 14,075 kilometre leg of the race takes the yachts on a three-week voyage across inhospitable waters from New Zealand to Cape Horn and then up South America's eastern coast to the Brazilian city of Itajai.
The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race is the longest in the competition's 44-year history, stretching over eight months and 45,000 nautical miles around the globe and ending in The Hague in the Netherlands in late June.
The race has already been marred by tragedy, when Vestas 11th Hour Racing collided with a trawler on its way to Hong Kong, killing a fisherman.