Cheeki Rafiki boss ‘cut corners’

Douglas Innes, a director of Stormforce Coaching, the company that chartered and maintained the ill-fated Cheeki Rafiki, is currently appearing in court.

He’s testifying to the part he played in allowing the crew to sail an unsafe boat as she returned from Antigua to the UK in May 2014. He denies four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin all died when the Beneteau 40.7 went down with all hands on May 16 last year.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report ran to 65 pages and highlights the importance of having a structured maintenance and inspection programme. Especially if the boat has – as most boats do – touched the ground a few times here and there, especially when racing in crowded and shallow waters like The Solent.

The court also heard today that a number of keel bolts were broken on the boat. Apparently they had been in this state ‘for months’ before the boat sank in the Atlantic, causing the loss of all four crew.

The court heard when the boat started taking on water, the crew had emailed Innes. He was, the court was told, in a British pub at the time. And the court heard that instead of alerting the Coastguard to the crew’s plight, Innes allegedly ‘carried on drinking’.

In spite of the fact several keel bolts were known to be missing, Innes failed to call a surveyor or get the boat checked by a qualified inspector before the 4,000 mile Atlantic trip from Antigua to the UK.

Innes also denies failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner.

The trial continues.

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