Fears grow for missing Olympic sailor

Retired police officer’s boat found on reefs off Cayman Kai

Mystery surrounds the disappearance of an Olympic sailor and retired police officer after his boat was found empty, washed up on reefs off Cayman Kai.

Local boat owners on Wednesday joined police marine and air units in the search for Mark Clarke, whom friends described as an experienced, elite sailor and an excellent swimmer.  

“We are all quite stunned and don’t know what can have happened,” said Donald McLean, president of the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee. “I don’t know if he had any health issues or anything like that, but there was no bad weather around. It’s a bit of a mystery.” 

On Monday, Mr. Clarke left Rackley’s Canal in the North Sound on a solo fishing trip. His 25-foot sailboat, Badger, was found unmanned, lodged on the reef around 10 a.m. Tuesday.  

There were no adverse weather conditions. 

Mr. Clarke was born in Jamaica but moved to Cayman in the 1980s and represented the Cayman Islands at the Olympic Games in Barcelona and Atlanta. 

Mr. Clarke, a veteran seaman with vast experience sailing solo, bought his boat in Florida earlier this year and sailed it to Grand Cayman, according to Mr. McLean, who sailed on the same team as Mr. Clarke during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. 

“He’s an extremely competent sailor, he represented the Cayman Islands in two Olympics. He is a really good guy.  

He grew up around the sea and has a great knowledge of the sea,” sad Mr. McLean. Raph Harvey, head coach at the Cayman Islands Sailing Centre, said Mr. Clarke was often out sailing and fishing in the North Sound. 

“He is a very talented sailor. We are all in shock,” he added. Inspector Ian Yearwood, who is leading the search effort, said many of the officers involved, including himself, had worked alongside Mr. Clarke during his days with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. He said the air and marine units were being supported by local boat owners scouring the North Sound for any sign of the sailor. 

They were backed up by special constables on foot patrol, combing the shoreline, in case Mr. Clarke had managed to swim ashore and collapsed from exhaustion. 

Inspector Yearwood said Wednesday morning, “We have civilian crafts assisting police marine and air units, as well as land patrols. We remain very hopeful at this time.”  

He accepted there was an element of mystery about the circumstances. 

“He has been described as an excellent swimmer and a veteran sailor – a sailing instructor, in fact. The conditions were very good, they are still very good. We are looking at all aspects of this,” Mr. Yearwood said. 

 

Anyone who has information or can help with the search is asked to contact Mr. Yearwood at 526-3159. 

Mark Clarke October 2013

Mark Clarke’s 25-foot sailboat, Badger. The boat was found washed up on reefs off Cayman Kai on Tuesday morning.

Mark Clarke beating upwind

Mark Clarke competing in a local sailing competition.

L to R,  Mark Clarke (2nd), Nick Taylor(1st), Mike Weber(3rd)

Mark Clarke, left, is pictured after finishing second in a Cayman Islands sailing competition.
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