Cheeki Rafiki: Last witnesses give evidence at Winchester Crown Court

The final witnesses appeared at Winchester Crown Court yesterday, Thursday 6 July, in the Cheeki Rafiki trial. Four men lost their lives when the yacht capsized mid-AtlanticPaul Goslin, James Male, Steve Warren and Andrew Bridge. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images7 July 2017
James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin died when the Beneteau 40.7 Cheeki Rafiki capsized mid-Atlantic on a return trip from Antigua Sailing Week to Southampton. Douglas Innes, 42, of Stormforce Coaching Limited, which managed the yacht, denies four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.
Innes and Stormforce Coaching also deny further charges of failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner between 18 March 2013 and 18 May 2014.
Innes told the court that he had suggested the yacht head to Bermuda, making a 200-300 mile detour, before refuelling and continuing. Innes said that delivery skipper Andrew Bridge replied: “I can’t see the chart for Bermuda so I don’t want to go in there.”
In his testimony Innes said he believes there was a chart for Bermuda on board at the time.
When asked about the route, Innes said: “Prior to this trial there was never any debate on the way back, you go round the Azores High to the north.
“I didn’t have a preconception of at which point they’d start heading east. The aim is to get north far enough that you have a likelihood of westerlies.”
The trial, which opened four weeks ago, has heard detailed evidence from expert witnesses explaining the surveying and coding processes.
The Cheeki Rafiki had a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Category 2 charter code, which meant it could only be sailed commercially within 60 miles of “a safe haven”. This code certificate had lapsed prior to the yacht’s departure from Antigua, at which point, Mr Innes told the court on Monday, 3 July, “We ceased commercial operations.”
Innes said: “We didn’t think an inspection would make the boat safer, we thought it would make the boat legal.”
Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC said to Douglas Innes: “Prior to the capsize the problems were there to be found.”, to which Innes replied: “I don’t think another owner-operator, surveyor or five-year survey would have found them. I believe if there was a problem it was hidden from non-destructive testing.”
When asked about the yacht’s survey history, Innes said on Wednesday, 5 July: “If the MCA’s structural surveyor couldn’t find it (the problem) in 2011 (the date of the yacht’s last structural survey), then it was not visible by normal means.”
Yacht surveyor Julian Smith told the court on 5 July that had the Cheeki Rafiki been reassessed for its Category 2 code certification, it would not have been structurally tested during that inspection. “Percussion testing is not part of this inspection,” Smith said, “Keel bolt testing is not part of this”.
Describing the coding inspector’s role, Smith said: “We are like GPs, we take a broad view – we don’t pick up tools.”

The trial continues.
 
3 July 2017
42-year-old Douglas Innes broke down in tears when he described the events surrounding the deaths of four sailors on board the Cheeki Rafiki.
The director of Stormforce Coaching Limited, which managed the yacht, denies four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.
Andrew Bridge, 22, James Male, 22, Steve Warren, 52 and Paul Goslin, 56 all died when the Cheeki Rafiki capsized after losing its keel more than 700 miles from Nova Scotia in Canada on 16 May 2014.
Innes told the jury at Winchester Crown Court that the initial email from Andrew Bridge, headed “Urgent”, was the skipper asking for advice about an intake of water. He had received the email while out drinking following a day’s sailing.
He stressed it was not an emergency call for help. Innes later received a satellite phone call from Andrew Bridge which resulted in him leaving the pub and returning home so he could contact the UK Coastguard.
Douglas Innes is facing four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence, which he denies. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Innes said he received a final call from Andrew Bridge in the early hours of the morning where he said the intake of water was “getting worse”.
The Coastguard then received a signal from the skipper’s personal location beacon at 5.10am.
Innes said he then decided to contact the four sailors’ next of kin.
“That’s not something I was ever prepared for, the first phone call was very difficult, the hardest, I called James’s mum and I couldn’t get the words out, I just said ‘I think there may be a problem, your son may be in a life raft’,” Innes told the court.
He said he was “horrified” what later that day, the US Coast Guard said it was calling off the search.
Innes, who has sailed since the age of six, said he worked “non-stop” to find other boats to continue the search for Cheeki Rafiki’s crew.
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“I couldn’t comprehend how they could call off a search when it’s believed they were in a life raft,” he said. “We still believed they were alive, so the next couple of days there was a media frenzy.”
Initially, the search was called off on 18 May 2014 because it was assessed that after two days there was no chance the crew would have survived.
Pressure from the families and the British Government resulted in the White House National Security Advisor directing the search to continue on 20 May.
Despite the continued search, no trace of the four crew was ever found.
The court had earlier heard how the Cheeki Rafiki was “neglected and not maintained”, and that despite three years of hard racing and running aground three times, the yacht had also not been inspected by a qualified inspector before the trip.
Innes said that Stormforce Coaching had a “strong ethos of safety” and added: “The first thing we teach is safety before you get to go afloat.”
Innes said the Cheeki Rafiki had suffered two groundings before his company took control of it and once under its management but it underwent any necessary repairs.
Innes, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton, and his company Stormforce Coaching, also both deny failing to operate the Cheeki Rafiki in a safe manner between March 18 2013, and May 18 2014.
The trial continues.
16 June 2017
Jurors at the Cheeki Rafiki manslaughter trial have heard that White House officials intervened to ensure the search for the four crew continued.
Andrew Bridge, 22, James Male, 22, Steve Warren, 52 and Paul Goslin, 56 all died when the Cheeki Rafiki capsized after losing its keel more than 700 miles from Nova Scotia in Canada on 16 May 2014.
Initially, the search was called off on 18 May 2014 because it was assessed that after two days there was no chance the crew would have survived.
But following calls from the families, media and the UK Foreign Office, the White House National Security Advisor directed the search to continue on 20 May.
Winchester Crown Court heard from Capt. Anthony Popiel of the US Coast Guard, who said the search operation had covered more than 4,000 nautical square miles.
He said that Cheeki Rafiki’s skipper, Andrew Bridge, had also activated his personal locator beacon.
Families of the Cheeki Rafiki crew campaign to restart the search for their loved ones. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
“We try to treat search and rescue like a search for a member of our own family. Suspending a search is always the most difficult decision we have to make,” Capt. Popiel told the court.
Douglas Innes from Stormforce Coaching, which managed the Cheeki Rafiki, faces four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. He denies all of the charges.
The 42-year-old from Whitworth Crescent, and his company, Stormforce Coaching also deny failing to operate the Cheeki Rafiki in a safe manner between 18 March 18 2013 and 18 May 2014.
The jury has already heard in earlier evidence that the 40-foot yacht was “neglected and not maintained”, and that despite three years of hard racing and running aground three times, the Cheeki Rafiki had not been inspected by a qualified inspector before the fatal trip.
It was later found that a number of bolts had failed or broken, which caused the yacht’s keel to detach.
The trial continues.
12 June 2017
The father of 22-year-old James Male, who was one of four sailors who died when the Cheeki Rafiki capsized in the mid-Atlantic, has described the ordeal as “harrowing”.
Graham Male was giving evidence at the trial of Douglas Innes, 42, who is accused of four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. He denies the charges.
Along with his company, Stormforce Coaching, Innes has also pleaded not guilty to failing to ensure the yacht was operated in a safe manner in accordance with section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
Paul Goslin, James Male, Steve Warren and Andrew Bridge. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
The jury at Winchester Crown Court heard that James Male was working as an unpaid intern for Stormforce Coaching, which managed the Cheeki Rafiki.
He had flown to Antigua to crew the yacht two weeks before sailing it back to the UK.
Male, along with skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, all died when the Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel while sailing between Antigua and Southampton.
The Cheeki Rafiki. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Graham Male told the court that he had been contacted by Innes, who informed him that the yacht was in difficulty.
He said Innes seemed “perfectly calm” about the situation.
Male and his wife were also kept updated by the US Coast Guard about the search for the crew, and were sent a photo of the Cheeki Rafiki’s life-raft which was still onboard the capsized yacht.
“It was surreal, just seeing that life-raft, I just couldn’t believe it, I remember saying ‘I have seen enough’. It was harrowing, it was as if the photo was in slow motion, I remember going back to the family, I knew as soon as I saw that life-raft in there,” James Male’s father told the court.
An engineer, Male also told the jury that he had concerns about Stormforce Coaching after his son told him he used a “multi-tool” for work on the boat.
Last week, the court heard that the Cheeki Rafiki was “neglected and not maintained”, and that despite three years of hard racing and running aground three times, the yacht had also not been inspected by a qualified inspector before the trip.
Graham Male.Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Cheeki Rafiki capsized after losing its keel more than 700 miles from Nova Scotia in Canada in May 2014.
It was later found that a number of bolts had failed or broken, which caused the keel to detach.
The trial continues.
8 June 2017
The prosecutor in the Cheeki Rafiki manslaughter case has told the jury at Winchester Crown Court that the yacht manager, Douglas Innes, failed to get the vessel checked ahead of its fatal last trip.
Andrew Bridge, 22, James Male, 22, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56,  all died when the Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel while returning from Antigua Sailing Week to Southampton in May 2014.
Despite a search of the North Atlantic, the men were never found.
Innes, the director of Stormforce Coaching Limited, denies four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.
He also denies a further charge of failing to operate the Cheeki Rafiki in a safe manner between 18 March 18 2013 and 18 May 2014.
The upturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki
Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC told the court that Innes “was responsible for the deaths and failed to do what a competent person in his position would do”, adding: “He turned a blind eye for profit and cut corners to save costs.”
The court heard that the yacht, which was managed by Stormforce Coaching Limited, had a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) category 2 charter code, which meant it could only be sailed up to 60 miles away from “a safe haven”.
Despite three years of hard racing and running aground three times, Cheeki Rafiki had also not been inspected by a qualified inspector before the trip, the jury heard.
Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel more than 700 miles from Nova Scotia in Canada.
Lickley also gave details of the events before the tragedy.
The jury heard that Cheeki Rafiki’s skipper Andrew Bridge had urgently emailed Innes when it became clear that the 40-foot yacht was taking on water and they were unable to identify the cause.
Innes, who was in the pub at the time, didn’t call the coastguard but went on to another pub and carried on drinking.
Mr Bridge then phoned Innes to say the situation onboard the yacht had got worse.
Innes then emailed the crew suggesting they checked the keel bolts. He also contacted the coastguard.
Lickley told the court that it was later found that a number of bolts had failed or broken, which cause the keel to detach.
“A number of keel bolts had broken, causing it to detach from the hull. Many were broken and it had been like that for months,” said Lickley.
“The yacht was therefore unsound, broken, and unsafe before the men left from Antigua.”
“The yacht was neglected and not maintained. As she was a commercial boat, she had experienced hard racing over three years and was not carefully looked after by Innes,” he stressed.
Innes also appears as a representative for Stormforce Coaching, which has also pleaded not guilty to failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner in accordance with section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
The trial continues.
 
7 June 2017
Douglas Innes, the director of Stormforce Coaching Limited, will go on trial today for the manslaughter of four sailors who died when the Cheeki Rafiki capsized in the North Atlantic in May 2014.
The 40ft yacht was managed by the Southampton based company.
Cheeki Rafiki capsized in adverse weather conditions when the yacht’s keel detached from the hull. The vessel was returning from Antigua Sailing Week.
Crewmembers Andrew Bridge, 22, James Male, 22, Steve Warren, 52 and Paul Goslin, 56 all died as a result of the incident.
Innes of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton, denies four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence.
He also denies a further charge of failing to operate the Cheeki Rafiki in a safe manner between 18 March 18 2013 and 18 May 2014.
Innes also appears as a representative for Stormforce Coaching, which has also pleaded not guilty to failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner in accordance with section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
The trial is being held at Winchester Crown Court.

5 December 2016
The director of Stormforce Coaching Limited, Douglas Innes, has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of four crew, who died when their yacht capsized in the North Atlantic.
The Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel when it was returning from Antigua Sailing Week in May 2014.
The crew –  Andrew Bridge, James Male, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin – all lost their lives.
Cheeki Rafiki was managed by Stormforce Coaching Limited.
Innes, 41, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton, denied four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence when he appeared before Winchester Crown Court on 5 December 2016.
Along with his company, Stormforce Coaching, he also pleaded not guilty to failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner in accordance with section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
The case has been adjourned for trial until 6 June, 2017.
 
3 November, 2016
The director of a firm that managed the Cheeki Rafiki has appeared in court charged with four counts of gross negligence manslaughter.
The yacht capsized in the North Atlantic in May 2014 after losing its keel.
The four crew – Andrew Bridge, James Male, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin – all lost their lives.
Douglas Innes, 41, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton appeared before Southampton Magistrates’ Court on 3 November, 2016.
He is also charged, along with his company, Stormforce Coaching, with failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner in accordance with section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
No plea was entered and Innes was bailed to appear at Winchester Crown Court on 5 December, 2016.
The families of the four men were all in court for the hearing.
The 40ft Cheeki Rafiki was returning from Antigua Sailing Week to Southampton when it foundered.
 
7 October, 2016
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) says that after a two year investigation into the sinking of the Cheeki Rafiki, the Crown Prosecution Service is to bring charges.
The MCA has been looking into the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Cheeki Rafiki after it sank in the North Atlantic with the loss of its crew in May 2014.
In a statement, the MCA said: “Following that extensive investigation, a decision has been made by the Crown Prosecution Service to bring charges against Douglas Innes and Stormforce Coaching Limited.”
Ian Harris, from the Crown Prosecution Service Wessex, said: “We have authorised the charging of Douglas Innes with four counts of gross negligence manslaughter and Douglas Innes and Stormforce Coaching Limited with one charge contrary to section 100 Merchant Shipping Act 1995.”
“These charges relate to the deaths of Andrew Bridge, James Male, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin in the North Atlantic in May 2014, following the loss of the keel on their yacht, the Cheeki Rafiki. The decision to charge was taken in accordance with the Code of Crown Prosecutors,” added Harris.
Douglas Innes and a representative of Stormforce Coaching Limited will appear at Southampton Magistrates court on the 3 November, 2016.
 
29 April, 2015
A report into the loss of the charter yacht Cheeki Rafiki has identified several factors that may have played a part in the tragic accident.
The report states that the most likely cause for the keel’s failure was a combined effect of previous groundings and subsequent repairs which may have weakened its structure.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its findings almost a year after the incident happened on May 16, 2014.
The vessel capsized in adverse weather conditions when the yacht’s keel detached from the hull, causing the vessel to flip upside down within a matter of seconds.
Crewmembers Andrew Bridge, 22, James Male, 22, Steve Warren, 52 and Paul Goslin 56 were all lost as a result of the incident, despite extensive searches by rescue crews.
During the rescue effort, the vessel’s hull was found and divers searched the yacht but they were unable to locate any crew.
While on board they discovered that the vessel’s liferaft was still stored in its original position, aft of the helm position, in accordance with the vessel’s design.
In the days leading up to the keel’s failure, skipper Andrew Bridge had reported to Storm Coaching Ltd that Cheeki Rafiki was taking on water in worsening weather and they were unable to identify the cause of the ingress.
The crew, who had been on a non-stop passage to Southampton from Antigua, had planned to divert to the Azores following the discovery but the vessel’s structure failed before they could reach the location.

In the report, the MAIB said: “In the absence of survivors and material evidence, the causes of the accident remain a matter of some speculation. However, it is concluded that Cheeki Rafiki capsized and inverted following a detachment of its keel.
“In the absence of any apparent damage to the hull or rudder other than that directly associated with keel detachment, it is unlikely that the vessel had struck a submerged object.
“Instead, a combined effect of previous groundings and subsequent repairs to its keel and matrix had possibly weakened the vessel’s structure where the keel was attached to the hull.
“It is also possible that one or more keel bolts had deteriorated. A consequential loss of strength may have allowed movement of the keel, which would have been exacerbated by increased transverse loading through sailing in worsening sea conditions.”
Cheeki Rafiki had previously grounded twice in 2007 and after each incident the yacht was inspected and repaired. The vessel also went on to ground at least four more times, however they were described as ‘light’.
Although much significance may not have been placed on these additional groundings at the time, the MAIB report goes on to state that it is possible that some of those ‘light’ groundings could have significantly affected the integrity of the matrix attachment in way of the keel.
They also said that it was possible further unreported ‘light’ groundings could have occurred, only increasing the likelihood that the keel attachment structure had been weakened.

Another contributing factor to the accident may have been that the vessel’s category 2 certification was allowed to lapse, meaning no authorised person had examined the yacht since its coding survey in 2011.
“It is possible that any indications of a potential structural problem might have been identified had the annual examinations required by the SCV Code been conducted”, said the report.
The MAIB investigation also identified that skipper Andrew Bridge had limited ocean experience and was the only crew member who held an RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Ocean or Yachtmaster Offshore certificate of competence.
If another member of the crew had the same qualifications, the skipper could have consulted with them on the passage, weather and subsequent events.
Anther contributing factor to the loss of Cheeki Rafiki was the weather. Forecast data in the days leading up to the incident showed that the crew experienced winds of force 7 and waves almost 5m high.
In an email, the skipper described how Cheeki Rafiki had started taking on water after hitting a big wave.
“Whether or not the ‘big wave’ on 14 May weakened the vessel’s structure sufficiently to initiate the water ingress is uncertain. However, without evidence to indicate otherwise, it is concluded that the cause of the water ingress was related to the worsening weather conditions”, said the report.

As a result of the investigation a number of bodies have been given recommendations to help prevent similar accidents in the future.
The yacht’s operator, Stormforce Coaching Ltd, has made changes to its internal policies and has taken a number of actions aimed at preventing a recurrence.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will work with the RYA to clarify the requirements for stowing liferafts on coded vessels. The RYA has also drafted enhancements to its Sea Survival Handbook relating to the possibility of a keel failure.
The BMF has been advised to co-ordinate industry-wide best practice guidance on the inspection and repair of yachts where a glass reinforced plastic matrix and hull have been bonded together.
Another recommendation has also been made to the MCA to provide more explicit guidance about circumstances under which commercial certification for small vessels is required, and when it is not.
Further recommendations have been made to sport governing bodies with regard to raise awareness in the yachting community of the potential damage caused by any grounding, and the factors to be taken into consideration when planning ocean passages.
MAIB chief inspector Steve Clinch said: “I hope that this report will serve as a reminder to all yacht operators, skippers and crews of the particular dangers associated with conducting ocean passages, and the need for comprehensive planning and preparation before undertaking such ventures.
“On long offshore passages, search and rescue support cannot be relied upon in the same way as it is when operating closer to the coast, and yachts’ crews need a much higher degree of self-sufficiency in the event of an emergency.
“Thus the selection and stowage of safety and survival equipment needs to be very carefully considered before embarking, together with options for contingency planning and self-help in anticipation of problems that could occur during the passage.”
 
 
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