A cruising yachtsman has been prosecuted for industrial sabotage in relation to an offshore wind farm today

Following the expiry of a European Union derogation on interference with offshore wind installations, sailors can now be prosecuted for inflicting commercial losses on energy companies for the disruption of the airflow over turbines.

The yachtsman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, was sailing upwind of an East Coast wind farm whilst crossing the Thames estuary when he was intercepted by the wind farm patrol vessel and served with a notice of damages.

According to the new rules, sailing yachts of between seven and 18 metres (23-59ft), making way under sail within two miles of a wind farm on its windward side, can be fined up to £5,000. Sailing vessels over 18 metres, which will includes larger yachts and sail training vessels, could be fined as much as £8,500. All yachts will be required to either sail around a wind farm on its leeward side, or to lower sails and proceed under engine until clear of the of the wind farm’s 2-mile ‘no sail’ zone.

A spokesperson for the Offshore Energy Association said, ‘We are very pleased with the change to regulations concerning sailing vessels announced today. We have been campaigning to stop sailors inflicting significant commercial damages on our members’ wind farm operations for some time now. Whilst we realise boats have a right to navigate safely within UK waters, they cannot do so with disregard to their impact on others’ commercial activities.’

Energy companies have been reluctant to share the actual impact of a yacht’s sails on the power produced from a turbine in the affected airflow, but according to one industry expert, ‘The drop in output is much more substantial than you would have thought. It’s enough to have a real impact on the bottom line for these companies, and it is hard to see how a leisure activity such as sailing should be allowed to damage livelihoods to this extent.’

Whilst a number of sailing associations and bodies are seeking to launch an appeal against the regulations, dubbed the ‘wind tax’, they came into force with immediate effect from 1 April 2015.

Yachting Monthly would be keen to hear from any sailors impacted by the new regulations.