News & Views

MUMMIFIED SAILOR: Clipper Race Statement Plus Boarding Video Released

Sayo adrift

Clipper Race officials have today released a much more complete statement describing the discovery of the mummified remains of German solo sailor Manfred Bajorat aboard his vessel Sayo by a crew member of the Clipper Race yacht LMAX Exchange. The statement reads in full:

At 0624 UTC on 31 January, the LMAX Exchange team ceased competition during Race 7, from Airlie Beach, Australia, to Da Nang - Viet Nam, to examine an abandoned yacht (pictured) found drifting in its path (11 38N / 137 46E - 650nM east of Philippines and 470nM west of Guam). One of the crew swam out and boarded the yacht, named Sayo, where the sole occupant was unfortunately found dead, in a state of advanced decomposition.

After liaising with the US Coast Guard in Guam on the finding and location, and Falmouth Coast Guard, the team was instructed to carry on racing as it could provide no further assistance, while USCG Guam took over the investigation. Clipper Race Director Justin Taylor also notified the German Embassy in London, who informed the German Police and Coast Guard, who were then able to trace the sailor’s next of kin via the boat registration details provided by the team.

We first made reference to the finding of the boat on 31 January, and again in our Daily Race Report on 1 March when the deceased sailor was re-discovered and the finding was made public in international news reports.

A statement made by the LMAX Exchange team says: “As reported, the crew of LMAX Exchange spotted a boat adrift off the coast of Guam. In the spirit of the Clipper Race and the crew of team LMAX Exchange, we put the racing aside in the hope of assisting the stricken vessel and any fellow sailors marooned.

“After boarding the drifting vessel, we unfortunately discovered the body of a lone sailor. We remained on site, under instruction, until released by the USCG who continued with the recovery.

"As a team we found comfort that he was found and that peace will be given to his friends and family who have been looking for him. Our words and thoughts were shared on board as he now rests in peace.”

Whilst it is necessary to explain whenever one of our Clipper Race teams stops racing, it was out of respect that we chose not to publicise the full details of the finding. We hoped to avoid causing unnecessary alarm within the international sailing community by announcing the death of a then unknown sailor.

As a company, we also felt it was inappropriate to create a news story out of such tragic circumstances, plus the experience was quite distressing for the crew member who went aboard, who does not wish to talk publicly about it.

We feel desperately saddened for Mr Bajorat’s family who have now been subjected to the publication of graphic images. Our thoughts remain as ever with them.

Coincidentally or not, a body-camera video made by the LMAX Exchange crew member who boarded Sayo and discovered Bajorat’s remains was also posted yesterday on YouTube:

View the clip on YouTube’s site and you’ll see it was posted by someone named David O’Brien, who states in comments that the video belongs to the Clipper Race and also asks that the Irish sailing site Afloat be credited with a link.

Inexplicably, the video is categorized as Comedy.

Judging from the Clipper Race statement, it would seem Bajorat was properly identified by German authorities when the body was first discovered. It also seems very clear that the Philippine coroner’s report to the effect that Bajorat had only been dead a week when found by Philippine fishermen on February 25 must be in error.

I note one report in the British press today that insinuates it was inappropriate for Bajorat’s remains to have been left to drift after first being discovered, but I don’t see what else could have been done under the circumstances. Bajorat’s boat was hundreds of miles from the nearest land when found. Perhaps a satellite transponder might have been left aboard, if one was available, but it would not have broadcast a position for very long before running out of juice.

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