Stormforce Coaching director is cleared of manslaughter

The four crew of Cheeki Rafiki whose bodies have not been found The four crew of Cheeki Rafiki whose bodies have not been found

Douglas Innes, director of yachting management company Stormforce Coaching Ltd, has been cleared of manslaughter.

Mr Innes had faced four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence following the capsize of the yacht Cheeki Rafiki in May 2014.

This was a retrial after the jury in the first failed to reach a verdict.

Skipper Andrew Bridge, 22 and crewmembers Steve Warren, 52, Paul Goslin, 56, and James Male, 23, were returning the yacht from Antigua to the UK when it capsized and lost its keel in the North Atlantic, 700 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia.

The boat was found but there was no trace of the men. Their bodies have never been found.

Stormforce Coaching was responsible for managing, maintaining and servicing the 40ft yacht.

Urgent email

The jury was told Mr Innes had received an urgent email from the crew stating the yacht was taking on water in bad weather.

He had phoned the Coastguard and advised the sailors to make sure the life raft was ready.

The court heard there had been regular inspections to the yacht and there was no evidence of keel damage. The yacht was out the water for nearly five months in 2013.

The prosecution said there was keel damage due to previous groundings and repairs may have caused weakening to the keel causing it to fall off.

Deterioration

An MAIB report stated: “A combined effect of previous groundings and subsequent repairs to its keel and matrix had possibly weakened the vessel’s structure where the keel was attached to the hull. It is also possible that one or more keel bolts had deteriorated.”

Mr Innes and Stormforce Coaching were convicted at the first trial of failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner contrary to the Merchant Shipping Act.

Sentencing for this offence is due to take place on May 11 2018.

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