Yacht crash costs Royal Navy officer £100,000

The yacht Atalanta collides with the Hanne Knutsen during Cowes Week in August 2011. Picture: Getty
The yacht Atalanta collides with the Hanne Knutsen during Cowes Week in August 2011. Picture: Getty
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A ROYAL Navy officer who was in charge of a racing yacht which collided with an oil tanker has been fined £3,000 but also ordered to pay £100,000 in court costs and after being found guilty of three counts of contravening maritime regulations.

Roland Wilson, a lieutenant in the RN Reserves, from Stanley, Perthshire, was convicted of failing to keep a proper look-out and two counts of impeding the passage of a vessel following a five-day trial at Southampton Magistrates’ Court.

The court heard that the 32-year-old was in charge of the 33ft (19.8m) yacht Atalanta of Chester, which was in collision with the 869ft (265m) Hanne Knutsen on the first day of Cowes Week in August 2011,despite the married father-of-one having seen the tanker from five miles away.

Footage of the incident, in which one crew member suffered head injuries and another abandoned ship, has been viewed more than 900,000 times on YouTube.

District Judge Anthony Ca­llaway fined Wilson £2,000 for the offence of failing to keep a proper look-out and £500 for each of the two offences of impeding the passage of a vessel, and ordered him to pay a £15 victim surcharge. The maximum penalty was £5,000 on each charge. But he was ordered to pay the full costs of the prosecution, which totalled £100,056.68. The court heard that a substantial part of these costs was to pay for expert witnesses who examined and reconstructed the routes taken by the vessels in the run-up to the crash.

Saying that bringing the case was in the public interest, Charles Row, prosecuting, told Judge Callaway: “As you made clear in your judgment, by the grace of God, there could have been an absolute catastrophe. It was a serious incident and it was carefully considered that it was a proper prosecution.”

Judge Callaway said: “Given the nature of the collision, it is quite inevitable that the prosecution obtained substantial input from technical and skilled sources and that, of course,
requires money.”

During the trial, Mr Row said that Wilson, who owned and skippered the yacht, sailed his vessel, which had seven other crew on board, “perilously” into the path of the Hanne Knutsen.

Mr Row said Wilson failed to comply with local shipping bylaws which required him to maintain a moving prohibited zone (MPZ) of 1,094 yards (1,000m) in front and 109 yards (100m) either side of a vessel greater than 492ft (150m) long.

Wilson told the court it was the fifth time he had raced at Cowes.