The Triton


Father tells court of losing son at sea in Cheeki Rafiki incident


The father of one of the four S/Y Cheeki Rafiki crew who died when the yacht capsized in the Atlantic in 2014 described in court the harrowing experience of learning his son was lost at sea, according to British news sources. Graham Male, father of 22-year-old James Male, said he was sent a photograph of the upturned boat with the life raft intact.

“I knew as soon as I saw that life raft in there,” he said.

The trial of British yacht manager Douglas Innes began June 7 in Winchester Crown Court. He is charged with four counts of gross negligence manslaughter, as well as two charges of failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner — one against him and one against his company, Stormforce Coaching. Both Innes and the company have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Along with Mr. Male, Skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, also died after the yacht lost its keel 700nm off Nova Scotia, Canada. The court previously heard several keel bolts had failed. Prosecutors said Innes was more interested in saving money than protecting the inexperienced crew of the doomed yacht. For the latest from the prosecution’s case, click here.

For previous Triton reports, click here.

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4 thoughts on “Father tells court of losing son at sea in Cheeki Rafiki incident

  1. Capt. E. S. Geary, P.Eng (UK)

    In May 2014, Skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, and crew James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, died when the Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel 720nm east-southeast of Nova Scotia. Their bodies have never been found. The 40-foot (12m) Beneteau managed by Stormforce Coaching was returning to Southampton, England from Antigua Sailing Week.
    Criminal negligence is defined in law as recklessly acting without reasonable caution and putting another person at risk of injury or death (or failing to do something with the same consequences).
    While four charges of manslaughter have been filed by the Crown Prosecution Service against Douglas Innes and his company Stormforce, many believe that the same charges should have been brought against the Yacht Brokers, Designers & Surveyors Association (YBDSA).
    Some legal pundits believe that both Stormforce and the YBDSA were complicit and grossly negligent having disregarded their responsibilities in determining the unseaworthiness of the Cheeki Rafiki which is now the subject of a jury trial in Winchester Crown Court.
    Following the incident, the investigation found that the YBDSA surveyor who conducted the MCA coding inspection of this British yacht, which was to be used commercially, made no record of the keel bolts being checked with a torque wrench to confirm their condition or structural integrity. The form only has a box to check that only refers to the keel/hull join when the hull is resting on the keel and does not confirm if the keel bolts of the Cheeki Rafiki were tight or loose. Tight keel bolts don’t fail – loose ones do – which is why the 3700kg keel swung free and separated from the hull.
    Established in 1912, the YBDSA was once recognized for its high standards as a professional rganization with impeccable credentials, but this is no longer the case.
    While Nigel Lickley QC (Queens Council) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPI ) may be successful in the prosecution of Douglas Innes, manager of the ill-fated Cheeki Rafiki, it won’t bring back the four souls who sadly perished.
    But it will send a clear message to irresponsible and inept organizations motivated by profit such as the YBDSA, management companies and other operators that unlawful and illicit conduct in
    violation of Section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act will be prosecuted accordingly.
    Sadly, on July 1st during a race organized by the Royal Belgium Yacht Club the world famous Dutch yacht designer Frans Maas and two of his crew died when the yacht he designed was lost off the coast of Ostend. The yacht was found with its keel missing.

    Capt. E. S. Geary, P.Eng (UK)
    RICS Chartered Surveyor (Admiralty & Maritime)
    Fellow: The Royal Institution of Naval Architects
    2017 Admiralty and Maritime Expert Witness of the Year

  2. Capt. E. S. Geary, P.Eng

    While the latest trial info doesn’t say, I believe that the testimony of the surveyor was given for the defense to undermine the evidence presented by the Crown Prosecution Service. Percussion testing may be used in pounding a GRP cored hull to find delamination when a hollow sound is heard, but has absolutely no use in determining keel bolt integrity. Keel bolt integrity should always be confirmed at 5 year intervals; all surveys including MCA Code surveys must reflect and report the condition of the keel bolts.

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