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.