Clipper Race skipper airlifted to hospital after his thumb was nearly ripped off in freak accident

Picture: onEdition 2017
Picture: onEdition 2017

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A SKIPPER leading a crew of amateur sailors in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race had to be airlifted to hospital after his thumb was nearly ripped off.

David Hartshorn was conducting a spinnaker drop with his crew, around 450 nautical miles off the coast of Portugal, when the guard rail became caught between his thumb and the sheet.

He was taking part in the race, organised by the Gosport company.

The incident which happened on board the 70ft Greenings yacht, left the 52-year-old with a partially detached thumb and a serious open fracture – requiring urgent medical attention.

Mr Hartshorn said the guard rail on the yacht acted like a ‘cheese wire’ as the spinnaker reinflated in the wind after it had collapsed, and pulled his digit along the metal safety rail.

‘The moment it happened, I knew that I had done something and I knew that something wasn’t quite right,’ he told the Press Association of the incident on Saturday.

On looking down at his hand afterwards, he said he could see his bone sticking out and his thumb ‘flopping off to one side’.

Pressed on how he felt looking at his hand, he said: ‘I did 30 years as a police officer, I have seen a lot worse... it just so happened to be on me this time.’

With coxswain Jeremy Hilton charged with taking over control of the yacht, a process which happens in situations where the skipper is incapacitated, Mr Hartshorn was taken below deck.

He said crew member Miles Berry, who is a surgeon by trade, acted as lead medic and – along with Jemma Cowley and Lucas Sebastian Canga Ivica – meticulously cleaned his wound, administering antibiotics and pain relief.

Just days after the race had started, it was then arranged for the injured skipper to be medevaced from the yacht – which took place from the water instead of the deck.

The Welsh skipper who lives in Ripley, Surrey, said he would like to get back on the boat in Fremantle, Australia, to complete the rest of the race.

Co-founder of the race, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, of Old Portsmouth, who was the first person to sail solo nonstop around the world in 1968-69, said the crew responded ‘very, very calmly and well indeed’.

The Clipper fleet is racing through the Atlantic and is expected to arrive in Punta del Este, Uruguay, between September 20 to 25.

The yachts were berthed in Gosport over the summer before heading to Liverpool’s Albert Dock for the start on August 20. They are due back on July 28, 2018.