Cheeki Rafiki boss guilty

Fri Jul 14 2017, 15:27 PM

Douglas Innes of Stormforce Coaching has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of the Cheeki Rafiki yacht that capsized in 2014 with the loss of four lives

Douglas Innes, director of Stormforce Coaching in the UK, has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of Cheeki Rafiki after it capsized in the Atlantic in 2014 with the loss of four lives.

Innes had been responsible for Cheeki Rafiki, which lost its keel 700 miles off Nova Scotia after it was returning from Antigua Race week. His company Stormforce Coaching was also convicted of the same charge.

According to the BBC, the jury at Winchester Crown Court was unable to reach verdicts on four manslaughter charges against Innes and was discharged. The guilty verdicts on the safety charges were by a majority of 10-1.

The crew of the 40ft Cheeki Rafiki – skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, and crewmembers James Male, 22, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56 – had been returning the vessel to Southampton from Antigua when the yacht began taking on water about 1,000 miles east of Massachusetts. They diverted the vessel, but contact with the US Coast Guard was eventually lost and the hull of Cheeki Rafiki was later found with its liferaft still on board, minus the crew.

During the trial, Innes, 42, of Southampton, was accused of cost-cutting and failing to get the vessel checked before the voyage. Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC told jurors the yacht had been given a "category two" code, which meant it was only authorised to be used commercially up to 60 miles away from a "safe haven", and the code certificate had expired shortly before the tragedy.

The court also heard the vessel, which had grounded three times in three years, had an undetected fault with the bolts which held the keel to the hull.

Jurors were told that when skipper Andrew Bridge contacted Innes to tell him there was a problem on board, Innes, who was in a pub at the time, did not call the coastguard but instead went to another pub where Bridge phoned him to say the situation had worsened.

According to the BBC, Innes returned home, called the coastguard and emailed the crew suggesting they check the bolts of the keel.

Mr Lickley said it later emerged that some of the bolts had been broken "for some time" before the yacht left the UK in October.