Sailor Claims she was Harassed During Yacht Race

Posted: 4th August 2014 | Written by: The Independent/William McLennan

Clipper thumnbail

Lawyer on adventure of a lifetime sues Clipper charity race organiser Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

She gave up her life as an employment lawyer with the aim of spending 11 months – and £40,000 – sailing around the world, only to find that the once-in-a-lifetime adventure would end up back in front of an employment tribunal.

In a case brought against one of Britain's best known seafarers, lawyer-turned-sailor Ruth Harvey is suing the organisers of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race after claiming she suffered victimisation and harassment while on board.

Although she paid for the pleasure of crossing the globe as part of the race, Ms Harvey, 50, claims she can still be classed as an employee, having been among the crews who pitched in to run the 75ft yachts, and is therefore able to bring an employment case.

The 40,000-mile race came to an end in London in mid-July as crowds lined up to cheer the amateur sailors home after nearly a year at sea. Ms Harvey, like many others who have attempted the gruelling challenge before, had pulled out of the race by then.

She is now bringing legal proceedings against Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to circumnavigate the globe solo and non-stop, who set up the race in 1995. He founded the event with the idea of giving amateurs the chance to experience the exhausting but exhilarating life of long months racing across the oceans.

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Ms Harvey had worked for 30 years as an employment lawyer and is now looking for a legal ruling that will delineate between paid participants and employees. A preliminary hearing at Southampton Employment Tribunal agreed to set aside two days in November when a tribunal will decide whether she can be considered a worker.

Ms Harvey, a former partner at the law firm Hunton & Williams, refused to elaborate on the nature of the alleged harassment or victimisation, but told the law website RollOnFriday: "I was a worker for the provisions of the Employment Rights Act, as regards safety, and I was covered by Equality Act provisions 'in any capacity' on board, as regards harassment. Complex legal argument here involves both domestic and EU law, and similar recent cases have gone as far as the Supreme Court."

As the 12 yachts set sail from St Katharine Docks in London in September last year, she said: "I am pretty scared, to be honest. I think somebody made the joke earlier that, if you're not scared, you're either a liar or a fool. Saying goodbye to family and friends is really hard. It's going to be a year before we see them." She had been raising money for the Cornwall Air Ambulance.

Med Ocean Cruising Club Patron Robin KnoxJohnston











Contacted by The Independent on Sunday yesterday, Sir Robin confirmed he was in the middle of the tribunal process, but said: "I really feel it would be inappropriate to say anything else before the hearing in November."

*Original story: The Independent via Google News (Search term: yacht)
*Image credits: Wikimedia - Flickr/Rob Faulkner - Flickr/Dennis Jarvis under CC 2.0
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Readers Comments

  • Comment by: Alex - 07/08/2014 9:53pm (5 years ago)

    Only just heard of this, what nonsense. As one of the participants I can say I was NEVER an employee but one of a TEAM. We worked hard for the prize, the honour of taking part and on occasions winning the leg we were in. All crew signed up to be one of a team, all crew knew it would be tough - really tough - and that at times we would wish we were somewhere else. I think this lawyer has missed the point, sailing in this race is about taking part and learning about yourself, how you are treated by your team-mates is a reflection on how you treat them. Life is hard at times, especially in the middle of an ocean race, accept this and move on, or get off. If this challenge is successful it will kill of adventure events.

  • Comment by: Sally - 05/08/2014 11:55pm (5 years ago)

    Everyone one on the race understands what they are letting themselves In for hence the training, that's part of what you sign up for the challenge of not only the physical but the mental and this is very clear from the start. Employees aside YOU are very aware of what could and will happen. 20 personalities in a boat that's 72 foot, crossing oceans for weeks at a time with silly heat or freezing temperatures, your not all going to get along, tempers will fly but friendships are made and memories are carved. It's meant to be hard both physically and mentally.. It is what it is and clipper make no bones about it. It's like saying to a uni student don't bother working hard etc we will give you a degree because you paid for it... Doesn't work like that it's hard and rewarding BECAUSE you worked hard and dealt with the hardship however it presented itself! From a former clipper crew, yep it was hard and yes there were times I wanted to get off and yes not all the crew liked me!! But not once then and since would I change anything, I sailed, learnt and feel priveledged to have been part of something special. Ps this is not super yacht industry those involved are normal people with normal jobs and normal lives and unless you have been part of it you won't get it... Really not sure where the comment ' crew are not racing' comes from clearly no idea how the clipper race work or indeed it is fact a race!!

  • Comment by: Simon Harvey - 04/08/2014 8:45pm (5 years ago)

    Sad to see this around such a great race and idea. Probably worth keeping an eye on, as even though crew are not racing, they are employees, and harassment is not a stranger to the superyacht industry as we all know (Ms Harvey is not a relation I might add).