Clipper Round The World Yacht Race
Andrew Ashman was participating in this year's Clipper Round The World Yacht RaceGetty

A British amateur sailor has died after being hit by a sail while taking part in a long distance yacht race. Andrew Ashman, 49, was competing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race when the fatal incident occurred early on 5 September.

In a statement on the race's website the organisers said: "We are deeply saddened to report the death of crew member Mr Andrew Ashman (49) a paramedic from Orpington, Kent. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. Andy was an experienced yachtsman and was one of the crew aboard the IchorCoal boat (CV21). All other crew are safe and well.

"The boat's skipper Darren Ladd reports that Andy was involved in reefing the main sail, reducing its sail area, in moderate seas just after midnight local time in a strong breeze building to Force 6 (24-30 mph / 21-27 knots), approximately 120 nautical miles off the Portuguese coast heading south towards Brazil in the first leg of the race." It is believed Ashman was knocked unconscious by the mainsheet and possibly also by the boat's boom.

He received immediate medical assistance and attempted resuscitation but did not regain consciousness, organisers said. The statement went on to say: "The boat linked immediately by satellite phone to the medical team at Praxes Medical Group, the Clipper Race remote telemedicine support service based in Halifax, Canada, where a doctor provided additional advice and guidance during the emergency.

"A full investigation will be carried out, as is standard practice, into the details of this tragic incident in cooperation with the appropriate authorities. CV21 is diverting to northern Portugal to a suitable marina, to be confirmed, in the Porto area and is anticipated to arrive in the early hours of tomorrow morning."

The founder of the Clipper Race, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, 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 cooperation with the authorities."