Accused British sail trainers off the hook for four of seven charges

Liquid Vortex rescue
.. .
A British sailing school owner and a skipper employed by the firm have been acquitted of four of seven charges relating to the rescue of training yacht Liquid Vortex, a Beneteau First 40.7, in January this year. Three charges, however, remain for the two, which relate to checking weather forecasts, planning of the voyage and failing to identify and assess risks to the vessel and crew.

Judge Peter Ralls ordered a jury to return the not guilty verdict against the owner of Hot Liquid Sailing, Jason Manning, and skipper of the Liquid Vortex, Charles Sturrock.

The pair had been charged with breaches of safety under the Merchant Shipping Act after novice sailors onboard the Liquid Vortex had to be rescued in the middle of force 10 storms in January this year.

Earlier in the case the court heard how some of Liquid Vortex's crew suffered from hypothermia and seasickness after Sturrock set sail with forecast high winds.

The five had each paid £225 to sail from Southampton to London and were expecting to arrive in time for the London Boat Show in January.

The boat was rescued off Dungeness by an RNLI lifeboat and some crew were airlifted to safety.

After hearing evidence from the prosecution for more than a week, Judge Ralls considered there was insufficient evidence for Manning, 36, of Pluto Road Eastleigh, to be tried further on two charges relating to standard operating procedures and failing to contact HM Coastguard.

Judge Ralls also asked the jury to do the same for Sturrock, 50, of Much Wenlock, Shropshire, who was found not guilty for safety breaches regarding standard operating procedures and sailing at night without proper equipment.

Both Sturrock and Manning deny the three remaining charges.