Jury clears sailing school boss and skipper

A jury today cleared a sailing school boss and a company skipper of negligence following a dramatic lifeboat rescue in the English Channel.

Both men had pleaded not guilty to all the charges which were brought under the Merchant Shipping Act, following the rescue in Storm force winds.
The owner of Hot Liquid Sailing, Jason Manning, and Charles Sturrock, who was the skipper of Liquid Vortex, a Bénéteau First 40.7 owned by Hot Liquid, were found not guilty by a jury in Southampton Crown Court.
They had both faced counts of breaching the Merchant Shipping Act after Liquid Vortex’s crew members were airlifted to safety during a rescue in January this year, some suffering hypothermia and seasickness.
The five crew on Liquid Vortex had each paid £225 to sail from Southampton to London and were expecting to arrive in time for the London Boat Show.
The court heard how skipper Sturrock set off with high winds forecast and the boat was later rescued off Dungeness by an RNLI lifeboat and Coastguard helicopter.
The jury failed to reach a verdict on whether or not Sturrock failed to make a sufficient passage plan, and were consequently discharged of their duties by the judge.
The Maritime & Coastguard Agency, who had brought the case, have 14 days to ask for a retrial on that charge. Costs were awarded against the MCA.
Earlier in the week the judge at Southampton Crown Court ordered the jury to return not guilty verdicts for four of the charges against Manning and Sturrock relating to standard operating procedures. The judge said there was not sufficient evidence to take the charges further.
Manning, 36, of Eastleigh, Southampton, and Sturrock, 50, of Shropshire, still faced three charges relating to failing to identify risks to the yacht and crew, but were cleared of these following several days of jury deliberation.
Manning and Sturrock had denied all the charges.
See the next issue of Yachting Monthly for the full story plus reaction from yachtsmen and the marine industry.