British sail-trainers on trial over injury/dramatic rescue of novices

Liquid Vortex rescue
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Many a sail-training organisation across the world will be sobered by events in Britain this week. A trial has started for two British sail-trainers over a May 2011 storm and the dramatic rescue of paying novices, after a MAIB investigation identified failings in the trainers and the organisation.

Jason Manning, director of owners Hot Liquid sailing Ltd, and Captain Charles Sturrock, who was skippering the vessel, face a string of charges relating to safety breaches under the Merchant Shipping Act.

The incident:
A 23 year old crew member on board the commercially operated sailing yacht Liquid Vortex was seriously injured when the vessel gybed. The gybe occurred when the yacht was running downwind in the English Channel.

The crew member was at the helm when she was knocked to the deck by the mainsheet. She sustained head
and spinal injuries and was evacuated by helicopter to Plymouth, England where she was hospitalised for 2 months.

The MAIB investigation identified that the yacht’s skipper had not adequately assessed the risks of leaving a relatively inexperienced crew member to steer the vessel unsupervised before he moved to the oredeck to help unwrap a spinnaker from around the forestay. It also identified weaknesses in the vessel manager’s policies and practices
when providing racing instruction.

The crew was made up of captain Charles Sturrock and six people who had paid £225 each.

Members of the jury were shown the dramatic moments when lifeboat crews and helicopters from the RNLI arrived off the coast of Dungeness to rescue the stricken craft.

Manning, 36, of Pluto Road, Eastleigh, denies three charges relating to checking weather forecasts, standard operating procedures and failing to contact HM Coastguard.

Sturrock, 50, from Much Wenlock, Shropshire, denies four charges relating to planning of the voyage, complying with standard operating procedures, failing to identify and assess risks to the vessel and crew and to sailing at night without proper equipment.

The case has been brought by Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

See below the video shown to the court: