British Sailor Killed In Round-The-World Yacht Race 'Died Doing What He Loved'

A British sailor killed adjusting a sail as he competed in a round-the-world yacht trip would have died with a "grin on his face because he was doing exactly what he loved", his friend said today.

Andrew Ashman, 49, died in the early hours of this morning after being struck unconscious by a mainsheet - a rope connected to the boom - while sailing off the coast of Portugal.

Former paramedic Mr Ashman, who was awarded the Queen's Medal for his 20 years service for London Ambulance, was less than a week into the year-long Clipper Round the World Yacht Race when he died.

Ian Pullen, a sailing friend of Mr Ashman's, told the Press Association: "He had a permanent grin stuck on his face. He had unstoppable enthusiasm. He just loved sailing, he absolutely loved it.

"He was determined to do as well as he could – not necessarily always to win, because it wasn't about the winning for Andy. It was just sailing and racing – he loved that part of it. Winning was an added bonus.

"He would go all out to try to get the maximum out of the boat, the crew – everyone.

"He found a real love in life of sailing, the whole lifestyle and everything that goes with it.

"He would have died with that silly grin on his face because he was doing exactly what he loved."

Mr Ashman, described as an "experienced yachtsman" and from Orpington, Kent, was loved by everyone he sailed with and was "really excited" about competing in the Clipper race, his friend added.

The vessel was in moderate seas when it was hit by a Force Six strong breeze (24-30 mph/21-27 knots) and the tragedy happened.

The former paramedic was adjusting the sail of his team's boat just after midnight last night when he was knocked unconscious by the mainsheet and possibly the boom, race organisers said.

Attempts were made to resuscitate him, but he never regained consciousness and died in the early hours of this morning.

Veteran sailor and Clipper race founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston told of his sadness at Mr Ashman's death.

Sir Robin, the first person to sail non-stop single-handedly around the world, said: "This is extremely sad news and my heart goes out to his bereaved family and friends, and to his fellow crew who have come to know Andrew with great affection during his training and the early days of this race.

"Safety is always our utmost priority, as our record shows, and we shall investigate the incident immediately in full co-operation with the authorities."

A spokesman for race organisers Clipper Ventures added: "At this stage it looks like a tragic accident as far as we can see, but obviously there will be a full assessment.

"The skipper and crew have been very upset."

Mr Ashman's boat, known as CV21 and sponsored by South African firm IchorCoal, had been sailing around 120 nautical miles off the Portuguese coast heading towards Brazil in the first leg of the race.

It was part of a fleet which set sail from Tower Bridge last Sunday for the year-long race.

They were in the midst of the first of 14 mini-races and just under a week into the competition when Mr Ashman died.

His team have now diverted to Portugal and are expected to arrive near Porto in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

It is the first death in the history of the Clipper Race, which was established nearly 20 years ago.