You may have seen this video a couple of years ago back when the collision, during Cowes race week, took place. They’re having a trial about it now, as the skipper of the yacht, a Corby 33 named Atalanta of Chester, insists that he was not negligent. Watching what happened per the viddy, I’d say what it was, in law-school lingo, was negligence per se. As in: you should never try to cross in front of another vessel, particularly one that is much, much larger than yours, unless you are about 1,000 percent sure you’re going to make it.

But the skipper on trial, Royal Navy lieutenant Roland Wilson, presumably is not a total punter when it comes to boathandling. His defense seems to be that the ship, the Hanne Knutsen, a 120,000-ton tanker, gave confusing sound signals as it was turning while trying to avoid another disabled boat.

I do know racing sailors sometimes get crazy about this stuff. They often seem to think that just being in a race somehow exempts them for having to observe the Colregs. But it also seems to me that you do have to be a little crazy to run a 120,000-ton tanker down the Solent during the middle of Cowes Week. It’s like driving a tractor-trailer into a bumper-car rink with over 1,000 bumper cars in it. You’re bound to crush one eventually.

Here’s another PBO link with a little more info.

The trial runs until October 25. I’ll be very curious to see how it turns out.

UPDATE: Roland Wilson was found guilty yesterday (Friday, Oct. 26) of failing to keep a proper look-out and impeding the passage of a vessel. He’s now liable for 103,000 GBP in court costs and fines.

5 Responses
  1. Jesse

    How could it not be the sailor’s fault? The decision involving the presence of the tanker is secondary to the bad judgement of the sailor who put his boat and crew in harm’s way. What was he thinking? That the huge tanker shouldn’t have been there that race day, so he’d just see if couldn’t cross her bow by a few inches of clearance?

    Judgement for the 500 lb. gorilla who had the right of way competely, and against the sailor who decided against all iself preservation instincts, regulations of the sea, and reasonable action, to hold course crossing that bow. Lucky he was not killed In point of fact. I cannot see any extenuating circumstances to the sailor being at fault in ths video.

  2. Don Joyce

    My oh my. A collision happened. Under the Colregs, all parties are guilty until proven innocent. The ship is already cleared. I have no idea what defense the Lt. could put up to clear his side.

  3. There’s a mobile exclusion zone 1000 meters ahead and 100 meters each side of such ships as they navigate the Solent, not on;y that there was a tug attached to the stern(to swing the stern out as the ship turned) – I don’t understand why they didn’t throw the book at the yacht skipper he got

  4. Ted B.

    What are they teaching young Royal Navy officers these-days? An Officer-of-the-Deck who doesn’t know the ColRegs for recreation vessels versus deep-draft merchantmen and warships?

    Once convicted by the Civil Courts, he should appear before a Naval Board of Review and be cashiered…

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