I don't think his being clipped in was the problem. IMHO, if he was clipped in, they should have been able to recover the body at the very least—and it doesn't appear that they were able to do that....so I seriously doubt he was clipped in.
The ISAF approved tethers have a quick-release snap shackle at the body end. This is a shackle that will open, even under a heavy load. Also, any sailor worth their salt will have a rigging knife on them when sailing for just such an emergency as getting caught in the running rigging or having a tether snap shackle jam.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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Still—DON'T READ THAT POST AGAIN.