Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Cheeki Rafiki yacht deaths: Douglas Innes 'a cost-cutting owner'

James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren, Paul Goslin Image copyright Other
Image caption Yachting crew members James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin all died

A company boss on trial over the deaths of four sailors when a yacht capsized had been cutting costs, a court heard.

James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin died when Cheeki Rafiki, the yacht they were sailing, capsized in the North Atlantic.

Prosecutors at Winchester Crown Court said yacht manager Douglas Innes failed to get it checked ahead of its trip.

Mr Innes, of Stormforce Coaching, denies four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The 42-year-old, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton, also denies a further charge of failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner.

Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC also outlined to the court how the yacht had been given a category 2 code, which meant it was only authorised to be used commercially up to 60 miles away from a "safe haven".

The code certificate had expired shortly before the tragedy, he added.

The men were returning from Antigua Sailing Week to Southampton when the vessel overturned in May 2014.

Image copyright US Navy/Reuters
Image caption The overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki after it was discovered by a U.S. Navy warship east of Cape Cod

The court heard that after receiving an urgent email from Andrew Bridge on board the yacht, Mr Innes, who was in a pub at the time, did not call the coastguard but instead went to another pub where Mr Bridge phoned saying the situation had worsened.

Mr Innes returned home, called the coastguard and emailed the crew suggesting they check the bolts of the keel.

Mr Lickley said it was a "tragedy" that they would eventually discover a number of bolts had failed or broken, causing the keel to detach from the yacht.

He said: "Some had failed and were broken and had been for some time," before the yacht left the UK in October 2013.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Douglas Innes denies four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence

Skipper Mr Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey, Mr Male, 22, from Romsey, Hampshire, Mr Warren, 52, from Bridgwater in Somerset and Mr Goslin, 56, from West Camel in Somerset, died after the yacht lost its keel more than 700 miles from Nova Scotia in Canada.

The yacht was found by a container ship on 17 May, two days after Mr Bridge's urgent email, with its life raft still on board.

Mr Lickley told jurors the keel's loss would have caused a "rapid capsize" and the men on deck would have been "jettisoned" into the water while those inside would have been trapped.

He added: "What is clear from two of the emergency beacons used by Andrew Bridge and James Male is that they may have survived for some time, most probably in the water, that is until they were lost too."

The US Coastguard was criticised for calling off its search after two days.

However, following protests from family and friends, and intervention by the British government, it was restarted and the boat was discovered, the court heard.

The trial continues.

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