Osborne Clarke is mourning the loss of former real estate partner Simon Speirs, who died over the weekend during an international sailing race.
Speirs, 60, was taking part in the Clipper Round the World Race when he was reportedly swept overboard Saturday in rough seas. Speirs, who spent 30 years at Osborne Clarke in Bristol, England, before retiring from the firm last year, was part of a crew racing for Great Britain from South Africa to Australia.
He specialized in commercial real estate, particularly investment and development, and served as head of property at London-based Osborne Clarke for nearly 10 years. Speirs also spent time on the British firm’s management board.
“Simon spent more than 20 years of his career at Osborne Clarke and had a huge enthusiasm for the firm, which alongside his caring nature and his deep love of lawyering made him a highly popular and valued member of our team,” the firm said in a statement. “Simon was also committed to raising money for charity, and his friends at Osborne Clarke always followed his progress during his fundraising challenges, many of which involved sailing. The Clipper race was the greatest of those challenges and we are devastated that he has lost his life while pursuing his dream. Our thoughts are with Simon’s family and friends at this difficult time.”
In a statement, the Clipper race said that Speirs was wearing a life preserver when he was recovered from the water within 36 minutes of being swept into the Southern Ocean, but he failed to regain consciousness and was pronounced dead. According to media reports, Speirs drowned after he became detached from the boat despite being attached to a safety tether. In a blog post written earlier this month, Speirs detailed his experiences in the Clipper race.
“The high points are fantastic and probably greater than I anticipated. The beauty of the sky on starry nights without any lights around to interrupt your view; the awesome beauty of the deep ocean, a deep, deep blue; the birdlife, soaring and swooping effortlessly in what we would think of as a high wind; the wide open vistas of the ocean without sight of land or human influence or presence for weeks on end …,” wrote Speirs. “So, am I having fun? Yes, I think so, although it is very hard work and not as unalloyed pleasure as my armchair anticipation hoped for. That said, it is an amazing experience and one that one could never experience in any other way.”
ESPN.com reported that Speirs’ team was in sixth place in the Clipper at the time of his death. Race organizers said that after his body was recovered, Speirs was buried at sea.
In 2016, British businesswoman Sarah Young died at 40 after being swept overboard in the Clipper competition while sailing in the Pacific Ocean. Two years earlier, former Hunton & Williams employment partner Ruth Harvey in London sued sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, an organizer of the Clipper race, for sexual discrimination and harassment. The case was subsequently thrown out of a U.K. court.