Ouzo capsized by Pride of Bilbao's wash

The official report into the loss of the yacht Ouzo, published today, Thursday 12 April, contains important lessons for all recreational boaters, says the RYA.
The report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) blames the Ouzo’s sinking on a sequence of watchkeeping failures aboard the P&O ferry Pride of Bilbao.  As a result, the 37,600 ton ferry is believed to have passed within 30 metres of the Ouzo, which was on a night time passage from Bembridge, Isle of Wight to Dartmouth.  The report concludes that the 25-foot Ouzo was swamped or capsized by the ferry’s wash, resulting in the yacht’s sinking and the deaths of its three man crew.

As well as failing to carry out essential visual checks before changing course directly towards the Ouzo, the Pride of Bilbao is criticised for not having stopped to institute a search following what her watchkeeper by then knew to have been a near collision.

The MAIB report notes that the Ouzo was known to be well equipped and maintained, while the crew members were experienced sailors who would have observed all recommended watch procedures and safety requirements. The subsequent recovery of their bodies showed them to have been dressed in appropriate clothing and wearing functioning life jackets.

 The yacht carried a conventional radar reflector of a design (known as ‘octahedral’) used by many small craft.  The sinking has re-ignited a long-standing debate over the effectiveness of radar reflectors in general and the RYA is calling on manufacturers to investigate, as a matter of urgency, how their overall performance might be improved.

In a full statement published on its website (www.rya.org.uk), RYA Training Manager James Stevens says:  “Recreational skippers who cross the Channel regularly know that they cannot rely on ships to alter course for yachts or even to pick them up on their radar screens.” 

The RYA statement points out that no apportionment of blame can bring back the lives that were lost and concludes that, “it falls to the entire marine community to work together to ensure that every possible lesson arising from this tragedy is put to good use in the future”.

To read the full MAIB investigation report or a synopsis, click here