Dover harbour powerboat race risks 'not assessed'

Emergency teams at the scene of the crash
Image caption The investigation found the course was too short and had too many turns

The organisers of a powerboat race in which a man died have been criticised in a report which found safety risks were not properly assessed.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) found the August 2009 Dover Regatta race had confusing rules and was run on a congested course.

It said the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) allowed a large proportion of novice competitors to take part.

Alex Edmonds, 41, died when two boats collided in Dover harbour.

The RYA said it had brought in several safety improvements following its investigation into the incident.

The MAIB report said the 8 August crash happened when the powerboat co-driven by Mr Edmonds, from Lower Stoke on the Isle of Grain in Kent, had unintentionally lost control, turned sharply and slowed significantly.

Another powerboat following behind had little opportunity to take avoiding action and struck the side of Mr Edmonds' boat, close to where he was sitting.

The father-of-one bore much of the force of the impact. His helmet was torn off and he suffered severe injuries to his head and upper body.

The accident investigation also found safety lessons identified following an MAIB recommendation made after a June 2005 powerboat accident in Portland Harbour, Dorset, had not been applied effectively across the sport as intended by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) council.

In its report, the MAIB said: "The event took place on a foreshortened and compromised course, under confusing rules and without the risks being properly assessed.

"However, it was approved by the RYA and a large proportion of untrained novice and inexperienced competitors were permitted to race. Ultimately, it was the ability of the crews of the two boats that collided which caused the collision.

"However, they were racing under the auspices of an organisation that the investigation concluded had been insufficiently focused on safety, and had not made adequate attempts to control the race, or educate the crews about the risks they faced."

'Tragic and regrettable'

The MAIB report said the RYA had begun its own investigation shortly after the accident. It concluded, among other things, that the course was too small and had too many turns for the number of boats taking part.

The crews' lack of racing experience was not thought to be a contributory factor, the RYA report said.

The MAIB said the RYA council had agreed to take a number of actions to ensure the future safety of events.

Mr Edmonds' father Ronald was watching the race when the crash happened and ran to be beside his son as emergency crews treated him.

He later said: "I went down to the boat and broke the police cordon. I saw my son and the condition he was in wasn't nice.

"He was still conscious and was still in a great deal of pain."

He added: "He wasn't only a son to me, he was also my best friend."

A spokeswoman for the RYA said it was a "tragic and regrettable accident" and they had brought in several safety improvements.

She added: "Safety is of paramount importance to the RYA, as reflected in our own investigation's conclusions and recommendations, all of which have been fully accepted by the MAIB.

"We will continue to ensure that safety remains at the core of all our activities.

"We are greatly saddened to have lost a member of the powerboating community and our thoughts remain with his family."

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