British sailor's collision with 120,000 tanker comes to court

Cowes Week collision between yacht Atlanta and tanker - photos by Herbert Westervelt
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Remember these photos? A British sailor whose 2011 collision with the 120,000 tanker Hanne Knutsen was flashed around the world garnering almost a million viewers, not to mention the 100,000 crowd watching from the shore, is currently being prosecuted in Southampton Court.

On August 6 2011, Royal Navy lieutenant Roland Wilson attempted to sail his Irish-registered Corby 33 yacht, Atlanta of Chester, with eight crew on board, in front of a 120,000-ton tanker Hanne Knutsen, while off Egypt Point on the Isle of Wight.

They didn't make it. The yacht was nearly rolled under the bow and was dismasted when the pink spinnaker wrapped on the ship's anchor. The dramatic sequence was captured by the camera of a quick-thinking Herbert Westervelt.

Fortunately there were no fatalities but one of the eight crew sustained a head injury. Two were overboard, picked up by rescue crews.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are prosecuting Lt Wilson in Southampton Magistrates Court. The prosecutor, Simon Row read the charges.

Lt Wilson contravened three Colregs:

Rule 5; He did not keep an adequate lookout.

Rule 9b; He impeded a large vessel in a narrow channel.

Rule 18; He impeded a vessel constrained by its draft.

Additionally he is accused of breaching Rule 7 by failing to adequately determine a risk of collision and Rule 8d as his actions did not result in his vessel passing a safe distance from the ship.

Southampton bylaws prohibit small vessels from entering a moving prohibited zone surrounding large ships passing through the central Solent.

The defence is claiming that the sound signals given by the ship were confusing and that the actions of Lt Wilson were not negligent.

The court was told that as the ship came around the corner by Cowes it turned to port to follow the coastline down. Just before it got to the Gurnard buoy the ship sounded its horn to indicate going starboard but had to slow the turn because a disabled 35ft Sealine motor cruiser, Joy C, was in its path. The cruiser had lost steerage and one engine. This slowing of the turn meant that the yacht could not get in front of the ship and the collision occurred.

Yesterday, the court was given evidence from crews of the Southampton Harbour escort boat, the Spitfire 1. They all said they had attended the disabled Joy C and that they had warned the yacht in 'robust language' that a ship was approaching.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) spokesman said at the time: 'Two people were thrown overboard by the collision. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch and the MCA duty surveyor have been informed. The tanker continued to its destination at Fawley and the yacht has been towed to the UKSA berths at Cowes.'

The Rhib (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) Vigilant took one of the crew back to shore for medical attention whilst the Southampton Patrol Boat and Hamble Rescue took the second crew member who had suffered a gash to his head to a waiting ambulance at Trinity Pontoon for transport to Newport Hospital. He was later reported to have been discharged.

The trial is continuing...