The legal community was shocked this morning to learn of the death of Simon Speirs, former head of property at international firm Osborne Clarke, who has died at 60 while taking part in a round the world yacht race. 

Simon John Speirs was educated at Wellington College and Queens’ College, Cambridge, and admitted in 1982. He practised for 31 years at Osborne Clarke, specialising in commercial real estate, particularly investment and development. As a partner, he was head of property for nearly 10 years and a member of the firm’s managing board. 

He was a keen yachtsman and had trained extensively for the Clipper Round the World Race, in which amateur crews compete over a 40,000 nautical mile course in 70-foot ocean racing yachts. Speirs had qualified as a skipper but was on the foredeck of the yacht GREAT Britain on the Southern Ocean leg between South Africa and Australia when he was washed overboard while changing a headsail. 

A statement from the race organiser said: 

’Simon, 60, from Bristol, UK, was on the foredeck assisting with a headsail change from yankee 3 when he was washed overboard. Although he was clipped on with his safety tether, he became separated from the yacht in the Southern Ocean at approximately 0814UTC (1414 local time) in a rough sea state, in 20 knots of wind, gusting 40.

’The team’s man overboard recovery training kicked into immediate effect and despite the rough conditions, Simon was recovered back on board by the skipper and crew within 36 minutes, at which point CPR was immediately administered by three medically trained crew, which included a GP.

’However Simon sadly never regained consciousness and was pronounced deceased at 0925UTC. The cause of death is unconfirmed at this time but thought to be by drowning.’

He was buried at sea yesterday.

In a statement, Osborne Clarke said: 'Simon spent more than 30 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. 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.' 

Speirs' crewmates today posted tributes, describing him as a father figure in the yacht and a true gentleman. 'While nothing can alleviate the loss and pain Margaret and his family feel, I hope that the positive way Simon touched the lives of all our crew while doing something he loved is of some comfort,' one crew member wrote.