Douglas Ines denies four counts of manslaughter (pictured leaving Winchester Crown Court)
A yachting firm director accused of causing the deaths of four British sailors today told a court he hadn’t known the extent of previous damage to their sinking vessel until he was charged with manslaughter.
Douglas Innes was responsible for operating the Cheeki Rafiki yacht through his company Stormforce Coaching, charging sailors for using it to compete in regattas and races.
All boats used for commercial use must be ‘coded’ to ensure they are allowed to sail, but it is alleged Innes allowed Cheeki Rafiki’s permit to expire while at an event in the Caribbean.
Prosecutors claim he then instructed four sailors, two who worked for him and two who had paid to sail the vessel, to take an unsafe route through the Atlantic in May 2014 to get it back to Britain.
During the yacht’s tragic final journey, the keel, which keeps the boat upright, detached from its underside.
Skipper Andrew Bridge, James Male, both 22, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, died when the 40ft (12m) vessel capsized.
It has previously been heard that the yacht had grounded three times in the three years prior to the tragic accident off the coast of America, with prosecutors alleging Innes was aware of these and had failed to have the boat properly repaired.
Skipper Andrew Bridge, James Male, both 22, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, died when the 40ft (12m) vessel capsized (pictured: James Male)
Today Innes, 43, told Winchester Crown Court, Hants, it was ‘very upsetting’ when he finally learned of the extent of previous damage to the Cheeki Rafiki in 2016 when he was charged.
The yacht was owned by brothers Steve and Adrian Hacking and had been operated by several other companies prior to Innes’ Stormforce Coaching taking control of the boat.
It was also heard the brothers did not realise the boat was not ‘coded’ for commercial sailing prior to Innes’ company taking over its running, organising this himself after the pair did not sort it for him.
Douglas Innes was responsible for operating the Cheeki Rafiki yacht through his company Stormforce Coaching, charging sailors for using it to compete in regattas and races (pictured: James Male)
Giving evidence today, Innes said: ‘In September 2010, I asked a specific question [about damage to the boat] and was told it had not been involved in any groundings.
‘Then in June or July 2011, the insurance [for Cheeki Rafiki] was coming to an end; I set about getting an insurance policy sorted and was told the boat had two years no claims bonus.
‘When I asked why it was only two years, there was a grounding and that was the first I had heard about it.
‘[Adrian Hacking] said it was dealt with by a repair yard and that was all I heard about the incident.
Prosecutors claim Innes then instructed four sailors, two who worked for him and two who had paid to sail the vessel, to take an unsafe route through the Atlantic in May 2014 to get it back to Britain (Pictured: A map shows the last known position of Cheeki Rafiki)
‘[Adrian] was very vague about the incident; he referred to it as a light touch and I was assured it had been dealt with.
‘I was only made aware [of the number of times damage had been caused prior to Stormforce taking over the running of the boat] when I was told about proceedings started.
‘I was not made aware of the damage and I did not know when it was first damaged.’
The court also heard Cheeki Rafiki had not been properly ‘coded’ before Innes and his company started running it, which the father-of-two said he sorted straight away for the Hacking brothers who owned the boat.
He said: ‘I asked the brothers what code the boat was when we were taking over the running of it and the brothers looked at each other blankly and said that she was coded for racing.
‘That was the first time I got wind she wasn’t coded.
‘I said the boat has to be coded and we talked about what level we would get it coded, because it effects the type of sailing you can do.
‘When it was clear the Hackings were not going to sort it, we got it done ourselves.
Today Innes, 43, told Winchester Crown Court, Hants, it was ‘very upsetting’ when he finally learned of the extent of previous damage to the Cheeki Rafiki in 2016 when he was charged
‘The category two coding meant it could be used commercially within 60 miles of a safe haven. We wanted category one, which opened up another market allowing us to take more direct routes.
‘But Adrian Hacking decided he wanted us to get category two.’
Cheeki Rafiki had been racing in competitions in the Caribbean island for two weeks prior to the fatal journey.
Winchester Crown Court heard the vessel’s keel detached on the journey back to the UK and caused it to sink 700 miles off Nova Scotia, Canada.
The keel bolts had sustained damage as a result of three years of hard racing and previous grounding incidents, the court was told.
The bodies of Mr Male, from Romsey, Hants, Mr Bridge, from Farnham, Surrey, Mr Warren, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and Mr Goslin, from West Camel, also Somerset, were never found.
Innes, of Southampton, Hants, denies four counts of manslaughter.
Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.