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Maple Creek man’s trip around the world ends tragically

Posted on November 23, 2017 by Maple Creek

Dominique Liboiron

Don Peterson was sleeping on board the ship he was sailing around the world with when a sudden impact awoke him. “It was a terribly loud thud with intense vibrations reverberating through the boat,” Peterson said of the collision. His vessel had just struck a reef.
The Maple Creek native was participating in the Clipper Round the World, a year-long race that began in August. Peterson was on one of 12 teams. He and the other competitors had recently sailed out of Cape Town, South Africa when the incident occurred Oct. 31.
According to Peterson, the impact with the reef was like a car accident, but in slow motion. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the wind and waves continued to pummel the ship and to drag it across rocks. The noise and the vibrations became stronger and more intense.
Soon after the collision, Peterson donned his dry suit and lifejacket then he manned the satellite communication device to signal a rescue operation – it was only a matter of time before the boat would sink, the 51-year-old said.
The race started in Liverpool, England on Aug. 20. The twelve yachts, all identical, were manned with crews of 15 to 20 participants. Over the next 343 days, the teams were to race around the planet and return to Liverpool and in the process cover 40,000 miles or 64,000 kilometres. The competition was divided into 13 races.
Peterson said he feels very disappointed and frustrated by the whole situation. Adding to these emotions is the fact Peterson and his team had been successful, “Our team did very well during the first two races and came in first place in both races, in addition to setting several records, one of which was a 24-hour speed record for this size and type of boat.”
The first race was from Liverpool to Uruguay while the second was from Uruguay to Cape Town. Peterson and his teammates were racing from South Africa to Australia when their ship struck the reef, a collision that could have been avoided, Peterson stated.
“Obviously, this accident resulted from human error and could have been prevented quite easily if several of the crew and the interim skipper were doing their job and were focused on where the boat was with respect to the pending reef.”
The team was sailing under an interim captain after an injury to the regular captain.
Most of Peterson’s fellow crew members were reassigned to other teams. “The majority of the crew will continue on with their respective portion of their race with other teams on other boats. For myself, I have chosen the option to defer until the next race series starting in 2019 and ending in 2020. This will allow me to complete the full circumnavigation and to do so within one team environment, as opposed to be being moved around within teams,” he explained.
Despite the team’s dissolution, there’s a good chance Peterson will be part of another competitive team in 2019.
Peterson explained the core group will remain intact. This includes the original skipper, the team coordinator and the bosun. For Peterson, these crew members mold and define the race campaign allowing for a similar campaign to be built.
After Peterson and the crew were rescued from their damaged yacht, the wind and waves tossed the ship onto a beach approximately 400 yards away. According to Clipper, the British company that organizes the race, the boat is beyond repair due to hull damage. Clipper must recover the vessel, which the crew nicknamed Polly, but the task is complicated. The beach is in a nature preserve where heavy equipment isn’t allowed. Clipper is currently negotiating with authorities on how best to proceed.
To read more about Don Peterson’s voyage, please see the July 20 edition of the Maple Creek News

Maple Creek’s Don Peterson was on board a yacht racing to Australia when the ship struck a reef off the coast of South Africa Oct. 31. Peterson and the crew were uninjured, but the ship was damaged beyond repair. This spelled the end of his attempt to sail around the world.

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