England

Cowes Week yacht collision tanker 'signalled but failed to turn'

Roland Wilson
Image caption Roland Wilson was a serving Royal Navy officer at the time of the collision in August 2011

The skipper of a racing yacht that collided with an oil tanker in the Solent said it happened because the ship signalled to turn but never did.

Roland Wilson, 32, of Perthshire, said his boat - the Atalanta of Chester - was on course to pass port-to-port with the 260m Hanne Knutsen.

He is on trial accused of negligence by sailing too close to the tanker on the first day of Cowes Week in August 2011.

Mr Wilson, an experienced sailor, claims he took "no unnecessary risks".

He told Southampton Magistrates' Court: "This situation develops from being a safe situation to being an unsafe situation in a short time scale... because of the unexpected manoeuvre of the Hanne Knutsen after the starboard sound signal."

'Wishful thinking'

Mr Wilson, who was a serving Royal Navy officer at the time, is now a lieutenant in the reserves.

He denies breaking maritime regulations by failing to keep a proper lookout and two counts of impeding the passage of a tanker.

Under cross examination by prosecutor Charles Row, Mr Wilson was asked: "You had no clear idea how quickly she was going to turn?"

He replied that he has seen hundreds of such ships turn at that point - prompting Mr Row to suggest that Wilson had assumed that was what the tanker would do and he had not observed properly.

Mr Wilson denied the claim, telling the court he had seen the tanker from five miles away as his yacht raced.

"Was it wishful thinking on your part, wishing to apportion blame on someone else than take responsibility yourself?" Mr Row asked.

Prosecution 'not proportionate'

The skipper replied he did not want to apportion any blame.

Mr Row: "You had all the time in the world to avoid this ship."

Mr Wilson replied: "It remained a safe situation up until a couple of minutes before the collision."

Rufus Taylor, defending the skipper, told the court: "The impact on the community was zero.

"Is a prosecution a proportionate response to what happened, bearing in mind the excessive cost involved in the prosecution of this case? Simply no, it is not proportionate.

"It was an accident, no one was hurt."

The yacht, which had a crew of eight, had a damaged mast and its sail almost became entangled in the anchor.

One crew member suffered minor head injuries and another abandoned ship in the collision with the 120,000-ton tanker.

The trial is expected to end on Friday.

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