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Royal Navy Man Found Guilty Over Cowes Week Yacht Crash

25th October 2013
Royal Navy Man Found Guilty Over Cowes Week Yacht Crash

#YachtCrash - A former serving lieutenant in the Royal Navy has been found guilty of breaching international maritime law and ordered to pay more than £100,000 (€117,000) in fines and costs over an incident during Cowes Week 2011.

According to Practical Boat Owner, the court in Southampton today (25 October)ruled that Roland Wilson had broken three Colregs (Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea) when his Corby 33 yacht Atalanta of Chester crashed into an oil tanker in the Solent on 6 August 2011.

It was ruled that Wilson 'did not keep an adequate lookout' (rule 5) when he sailed his yacht into the exclusion zone reserved for shipping traffic during the Cowes Week festival, then 'impeded a large vessel in a narrow channel' (rule 9b) and 'impeded a vessel constrained by his draft' (rule 18) as the tanker bore down on him and his vessel.

The court heard that a crew member on the eight-man yacht jumped overboard moments before the collision with the front of the tanker. 

In the moments that followed the yacht's rigging became tangled on the tanker's anchor which collapsed the mast onto another crew member who was later hospitalised but not seriously hurt.

BBC News reports remarks from District Judge Anthony Callaway in passing sentence, saying: "Fortuitous it was that there was no loss of life. The potential for even greater and tragic consequence is, in my judgement, apparent.

"This was a serious yacht crewed by serious people in a regatta for a serious purpose. It was well equipped in terms of experience and ability to deal with any situation.

"This was not some Saturday afternoon jaunt by some inadequate vessel crewed by inexperienced, clueless and foolhardy people who frankly have no business being on the water at all.

"The yacht took a decision, and as I find the wrong decision, to sail towards the problem into the path of the tanker across a narrow channel. It should have kept clear and in the worst event used her engine."

Published in Cowes Week
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Cowes Week is traditionally held during the week beginning on the first Saturday after the last Tuesday in July (except where the tides make the traditional dates virtually unworkable. 

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