Cheeki Rafiki: company boss convicted of failing to ensure yacht's safety

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A yacht company director has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of the Cheeki Rafiki, a boat that was lost in poor weather in the mid Atlantic with four sailors on board.
Douglas Innes will face a retrial over the deaths of the four men after a jury at Winchester crown court failed to reach verdicts on manslaughter charges.
Innes, a married father-of-two, showed no emotion as he and his company, Stormforce Coaching, were convicted of failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner, contrary to the Merchant Shipping Act.
Cheeki Rafiki set sail from Antigua for Southampton on 4 May 2014. On board were skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey, and mate James Male, 23, from Southampton. Both were Stormforce Coaching employees.
The crew were Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, friends from Somerset for whom the voyage was a dream trip.
Cheeki Rafiki is believed to have lost its keel more than 700 miles from Nova Scotia. An initial search by US authorities was called off but resumed after the British government intervened. The yacht was found but there was no sign of the four men and the lifeboat was still with the boat.
Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, told the jury Innes, 42, from Southampton, and his company had been in charge of Cheeki Rafiki, named after a character in the Lion King, for three years.
He claimed the yacht had grounded on three occasions and said bolts holding the three-tonne keel to the hull failed, causing it to fall off during the bad weather during the voyage.
Lickley also claimed during the trial that the yacht was not appropriately coded – licensed – for the voyage and Innes had chosen an “unsafe” northern route.
The prosecutor said: “The yacht was unsound, broken and unsafe before the four men left Antigua. The yacht had been neglected, not maintained and importantly, because the yacht was used commercially by Mr Innes and his company, not inspected as required.”
Innes told the court any fault with the keel had lain hidden and would not necessarily have been found by an inspector, and that he believed the yacht had not required the coding because he did not consider the journey to be a commercial voyage.
He also denied he had cut costs or tried to save time by ordering the yacht back to the UK via the northern route.
Trial judge Mr Justice Dingemans discharged the jurors on Friday after they were unable to reach a decision on the four manslaughter allegations, which they had been deliberating over since Tuesday lunchtime.
Thanking the jury, Dingemans said: “May I thank you very much for the sacrifices you have made, your prompt attendance and the diligence and care you have taken when considering this matter.”
He released Innes on unconditional bail.

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