Cowes Week yacht crash skipper 'too close' to tanker

A Royal Navy lieutenant crashed his yacht into an oil tanker in The Solent after sailing too close during a Cowes Week race, a court has heard.

Roland Wilson, 32, of Stanley, Perthshire, is accused of negligence in the moments before the collision with the 120,000-ton vessel in August 2011.

Prosecutors allege Mr Wilson sailed into the path of the tanker, despite having seen it from five miles away.

Mr Wilson denies three counts of contravening maritime regulations.

One member of the eight-strong crew of the 33ft (10m) racing yacht suffered head injuries in the collision, while another abandoned ship, Southampton Magistrates Court heard.

Mr Wilson, who was a serving officer at the time of the crash, but is now a reservist, owned and skippered the yacht - called Atalanta of Chester - during the regatta.

'Back of the race'

Despite shipping by-laws requiring vessels to maintain a safe distance from larger ships, the Atalanta crashed into the 853ft-long (260m) Hanne Knutsen tanker, which was heading to Fawley oil refinery.

Charles Row, prosecuting, said: "The sea was calm, visibility was excellent, in excess of 10 miles (16km), with 10 to 12 knots of wind.

"Unfortunately, despite these favourable conditions, the Atalanta was towards the back of the race, nevertheless she was making seven knots."

Mr Row said Wilson failed to comply with a "moving prohibited zone" of 1,000m (0.6 miles) in front and 100m (328ft) either side of a vessel greater than 150m (492ft).

He said the situation had been complicated by a motor vessel that suffered engine failure to the tanker's starboard, forcing the Hanne Knutsen to change its course.

Mr Row said, although the tanker had begun to make a port turn, the Atalanta should not have been in such a close position and Mr Wilson failed to turn on the yacht's engines to avoid the collision.

'Pivoted round'

He said, under the circumstances, the action would have been permitted under race rules and would not have led to his disqualification.

Describing the collision to the court, Mr Row said: "One of the crew took the decision to abandon ship approximately five or six seconds before the collision.

"He passed down the starboard side of the Hanne Knutsen. Having abandoned ship he was picked up by a spectator vessel.

"The Atalanta mast struck the bow of the Hanne Knutsen and was pivoted round to the port. She was dismasted and one of her crew suffered head injuries which required hospital treatment.

"Mercifully, there was no other injury as a result of what happened."

The trial continues.

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