Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Cheeki Rafiki deaths: Yacht 'was well maintained'

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

A company boss has told a court he regularly maintained a yacht which sank in the Atlantic with the loss of four sailors.

The crew of the Cheeki Rafiki died after the 40ft vessel lost its keel and capsized in May 2014.

Douglas Innes, 43, from Southampton, has denied four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The director of Stormforce Coaching Limited is the subject of a retrial at Winchester Crown Court.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Douglas Innes is the subject of a retrial for manslaughter

Previously the jury heard how Mr Innes continued drinking in a pub after he received an "urgent email" from the crew warning him their yacht was taking on water in bad weather.

He replied advising the sailors to make sure the life raft was ready and later phoned the UK Coastguard but "didn't report any urgency", the prosecution said.

The yacht was found overturned and empty on 17 May, two days after the email was sent, with its life raft still on board.

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

Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC said Mr Innes had neglected the "unsafe" vessel for several years by failing to maintain it.

But Mr Innes told the court there had been regular inspections and no evidence of keel damage.

He said the yacht was taken out of the water for nearly five months in 2013 for the hull to be repainted.

He said: "If the boat is out of the water for that period of time, I would have inspected it myself as well."

Mr Innes said he only became aware of the extent of damage caused by two previous groundings after the prosecution was launched.

The bodies of the Cheeki Rafiki's crew - skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey, James Male, 22, from Romsey, Hampshire, Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater in Somerset and Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel in Somerset - have never been found.

The trial continues.

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