Hopes fading for lost British sailor John Fisher in Volvo Ocean Race

Scallywag approaches Auckland during Volvo Ocean Race. Photo credit: Photosport

Volvo Ocean Race organisers have conceded that the chances of finding lost British sailor John Fisher are fading fast.

The Team Sun Hung Kai crewman fell from yacht Scallywag early this morning (NZ time), while on watch and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre has assisted in a Southern Ocean search since.

But with weather deteriorating fast, race organisers aren't hopeful of success.

"Given the severity of the forecast and with nightfall just over an hour away, we acknowledge the chances of a successful recovery are diminishing," they said in a statement.

Team Sun Hung Kai has made the difficult decision to turn downwind and head towards the South American coast - the nearest safe landfall - about 2200km away.

The boat reported Fisher's disappearance at 1:42am, about 225km west of Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America. He was wearing survival equipment when he went overboard and the remaining crew are reported safe.

The wind was a strong 35-knot westerly, with water temperature of 9degC at the time of the incident.

Rescue officials discounted the option of diverting other ocean race yachts to the scene to help with the search - the nearest was more than 300km away and downwind. They located a ship about 650km away and diverted that to the scene.

"Naturally, we are deeply concerned, especially given the weather conditions," race officials said in an earlier statement.

"Race control in Alicante is supporting the Scallywag team and MRCC throughout the operation."

The Volvo Ocean Race is a 83,340km event around the world, with a field of seven boats currently contesting Leg 7 from Auckland to Itajai, Brazil.