Douglas Innes, boss of yachting company Stormforce Coaching, has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of 12m Cheeki Rafiki which capsized in the Atlantic in May 2014, resulting in the loss of four lives. His company was also convicted of the same charge.
The trial was held at Winchester Crown Court with the jury agreeing guilty verdicts on the safety charges but failing to reach verdicts on four charges of manslaughter, which will now be pursued in a further hearing.
Andrew Bridge (22) from Farnham in Surrey, James Male (22) from Southampton, and Steve Warren (52) and Paul Goslin (56) from Somerset, were en route back to Southampton from Antigua Sailing Week when their yacht lost its keel and capsized 700 miles off Nova Scotia.
The US Coastguard was heavily criticized for calling off its search after only two days, and it was subsequently continued after the UK government intervened. The yacht was eventually found but the bodies of the four men have never been recovered.
According to reports in the national press, Douglas Innes (42) was accused of cutting corners on costs and failing to have the vessel properly checked ahead of the voyage. Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC told the court that the yacht had grounded three times in the past three years, and an undetected fault with the bolts attaching the keel to the hull predated Cheeki Rafiki's departure from the UK in October 2013. The court was also told that the yacht was only authorized for commercial use up to 60 nautical miles from a safe haven and the certificate to this effect had recently expired.
On their way back on that fateful day, Mr Bridge notified Mr Innes that there was a problem onboard and Mr Innes failed to inform the coastguard, despite further notice that the situation had worsened, until much later that evening. Mr Innes also sent an email to the crew suggesting that they check the bolts on the keel.
Mr Innes has been released on unconditional bail pending a further hearing.
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