News Item

Cowes Week skipper guilty

The Royal Navy officer skippering a racing yacht that hit a tanker in the Solent has been found guilty.

The Atalanta of Chester, belonging to Lt Roland Wilson - a serving officer at the time, but now a reservist - collided with the 260m, 120,000-tonne Hanne Knutsen, en route to Fawley, during Cowes Week 2011.

Lt Wilson told Southampton Magistrates' Court that he had seen the tanker from 5 miles; it had signalled to turn but, unexpectedly, never did so.

The District Judge said that Lt Wilson took the wrong decision in continuing towards the path of the tanker and not taking evasive action:
'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.'

The Judge noted that conditions in the Solent were crowded due to Cowes Week, but the yacht's crew were experienced enough to perform the 'difficult manoeuvre'. He added: 'The fact it didn't do so was the product not of a lack of skill, but the product of the wrong decision at the wrong time, for which the skipper, Roland Wilson, must take responsibility.'

Lt Wilson was convicted of one count of failing to keep a proper lookout and 2 counts of impeding the passage of a tanker in a restricted channel. He was ordered to pay a fine of £3,000 plus costs of over £100,000.

The yacht - with a crew of 8 - suffered a damaged mast, with its sail entangled in the tanker's anchor. One crew member suffered minor head injuries and another abandoned ship.

The impact was filmed and posted on YouTube, where it was watched over 924,000 times.

Details from the BBC below.

  • 25 October 2013
  • SCG

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