"Had the harbour authority’s requirements for the laying and marking of fishing gear in Southampton Water been complied with, the markers might have been seen and recognised at an earlier stage, and the accident avoided."
A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report has been published into a high-speed powerboat crash, which seriously injured a teenager.
On 13 May 2015 a Vector V40R powerboat hooked, inverted and made contact with a navigation buoy near the entrance to the River Hamble, Southampton Water.
One of the occupants was seriously injured and the other three required hospitalisation. The boat, a 13m offshore racing powerboat, was undertaking an engine performance test run on Southampton water.
The boat had reached a maximum speed of 87 knots (100 miles per hour) during the test and was being returned to the Hamble when the accident occurred.
Three of the occupants escaped from the upturned boat but one, the driver’s son, was knocked unconscious inside the cockpit. The driver dived back under the boat and brought his son to the surface, where he was resuscitated.
- The report found that no written risk assessment for the test had been undertaken and the control measures for the test were insufficient in that:
- No notice of the intended high speed test had been given to the relevant harbour authority (ABP Southampton).
- None of the crew were wearing seatbelt harnesses or helmets, although this equipment was readily available as its use was mandatory when the boat was participating in organised racing events.
The boat was owned by Vector World Limited and raced by the Vector Martini Offshore Powerboat team in 2014, its first year of racing, when it won the Cowes Classic Offshore Endurance race. The boat was sponsored by several major companies.
The boat had been operated for about 85 hours in 2014, either racing or attending major sporting events on promotional duties for its sponsors, who had links with Formula 1 motorsport. During these promotional events it was used to take sponsors’ guests on high speed rides.
At the end of the 2014 racing season the boat was stored in a workshop at Warsash for hull and engine maintenance. This included removal of the engines, which were returned to Ilmor Engineering Inc. in the USA for overhaul.
The engines were returned to Warsash and reinstalled at the beginning of May 2015, and were workshop tested on 12 May. Following the successful completion of these tests, the decision was taken to carry out a full-power engine commissioning test afloat the following day.
What happened prior to the crash?
At 0810 the boat passed number 2 Beacon, River Hamble, and the driver instructed the others to secure the cockpit hatches. He then turned the boat to starboard onto a north- westerly heading and increased speed to 65kts (75mph) as the boat proceeded up Southampton Water.
The wind was light and the sea state was calm.
Off Netley, the driver turned the boat to starboard onto a south-easterly heading and increased speed. At 0815 it reached a speed of 87kts (100mph) as it passed the Fawley Marine Terminal.
At 0816 the driver reduced the boat’s speed to execute a turn to port around the Reach buoy. He then increased speed to approximately 80kts (92mph) on a north-westerly course to head the boat back towards the River Hamble.
At 0817, as the boat approached the Hamble Point navigation buoy at approximately 80kts (92mph), the driver began to decelerate and observed a long low wash, approximately 30-45 centimetres high, ahead.
When the boat was north-west of the Hamble Point buoy the driver turned it to starboard. During the turn he saw two blue objects on the surface of the water ahead of the boat and, thinking that they could be divers’ surface marker buoys, the driver applied more starboard helm to avoid them.
As the additional helm was applied the boat hooked violently and turned and heeled to starboard towards the Hamble Point buoy. Although the driver reduced throttle speed, and eased the helm, the boat rolled violently back to port, inverted and became airborne, striking the Hamble Point buoy.
After the contact, still airborne, the boat began to roll to starboard until it landed heavily in the water on its port side. It then settled, inverted, on the surface of the water.
As a result of the contact, the aft hatch had sprung open allowing water to rapidly enter the inverted boat’s cockpit. The driver opened the forward hatch and the co-driver pulled himself out and swam to the surface. The driver then left the cockpit via the forward hatch and confirmed that the aft hatch was open before he surfaced.
On the surface, the driver saw one of the passengers clinging onto a hull fitting, and he instructed him to inflate his lifejacket. He then shouted out his son’s name and asked the co-driver, who was on the other side of the boat, if he could see him. The co-driver replied that there was no sign of the driver’s son.
The driver then dived back under the surface to search for his son. He entered the aft cockpit hatch opening, pulled himself inside the boat and located his son, who he then pulled out and to the surface.
The driver’s son appeared not to be breathing, and he had a compound fracture of his left arm. The driver and co-driver began CPR5 and his son coughed and took a breath, after which the driver inflated his son’s lifejacket.
Then, while the co-driver waved to attract the attention of passing craft, the driver kept his son’s head clear of the water until they were rescued.
Praise for the driver’s selfless actions
The MAIB report states that: ‘After the accident, when the driver realised his son was probably still inside the cockpit he did not hesitate in diving back under the boat to locate and rescue him. But for his swift action it is unlikely that his son would have survived.
The driver’s actions in diving back into the upturned hull were selfless and commendable.’
The driver held a commercially endorsed Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Yachtmasters’ certificate of competency. He had over 30 years’ experience as a powerboat driver and had extensive knowledge of the waters of the Solent. The driver was a former offshore powerboat racing world champion and held 21 powerboat speed and endurance records. He was the former manager of the RYA’s powerboat racing and motor boat department, a post he held for a number of years.
The co-driver had 35 years’ experience as a powerboat driver and had previously been the chairman of the RYA’s powerboat racing committee. He also had extensive knowledge of the waters of the Solent.
The two passengers were seated in the rear seats at the time of the accident. They were the driver’s son, aged 17 years, who had some experience of being on board canopied powerboats; and a hull fabricator who had assisted with the refit and was making his first trip in the boat. The hull fabricator was not familiar with being on board canopied offshore powerboats.
- The driver lost control of the boat causing it to hook and invert while making a turn at high speed.
- No notification was given to the harbour authority regarding the high speed test.
Insufficient control measures were put in place to mitigate the risks to crew and passengers in the event of an accident, and they were not wearing seatbelt harnesses or helmets for the test, during which the boat reached a top speed of 87kts (100mph).
- In order to safeguard all on board, there is a need for the training and personal safety requirements of the race rules to be applied to all racing powerboats involved in or preparing for organised racing events, including tests, and whenever inexperienced crew or passengers are carried.
Harbour authority powers:
- Had there been an enforceable speed limit in Southampton Water the likelihood of this accident occurring would have been reduced.
- Had the harbour authority’s requirements for the laying and marking of fishing gear in Southampton Water been complied with, the markers might have been seen and recognised at an earlier stage, and the accident avoided.
- In the interests of safety of navigation, harbour users intending to undertake high speed manoeuvres, or any other activity that could impact other harbour users, should risk assess the proposed activity and notify the harbour authority.
- Issued a local notice to mariners regarding safe speed in Southampton Water.
- Liaised with the RYA to promulgate to powerboat operators that tests should be notified to the harbour authority in advance and undertaken in accordance with both harbour authority and race rules’ requirements.
- Commenced the legal process to obtain statutory powers to issue Harbour Directions to facilitate its ability to regulate speed limits, the marking of fishing gear, et al, in its statutory harbour area.
- Engaged with local fishermen regarding the marking of fishing gear.
The Royal Yachting Association has:
- Liaised with the Southampton harbour authority to promulgate to powerboat operators that tests should be notified to the harbour authority in advance and undertaken in accordance with both harbour authority and race rules’ requirements.
- Drafted advice for inclusion in its 2016 powerboat racing rules that operators of powerboats preparing for an organised racing event should follow the same safety principles while preparing their boats as would apply to their boats during the organised racing event itself.
- Reviewed PB113 Offshore Rules to include guidance on the safe conduct of tests.
Vector World Limited is recommended to:
2016/105 Ensure that whenever its powerboats are driven on the plane, the activity is carried out in accordance with the safety requirements of UIM/RYA Race Rules.
Experienced powerboat racers Peter Dredge and Simon Wood-Power, along with engineer Lee Hurst and Peter's teenage son Simon were involved…
A teenager is in a 'critical condition' after the speedboat he was travelling in crashed and overturned, just outside the…
The family of a teenage girl who died following a fatal speedboat incident in Brixham, Devon, on Saturday, 2 May,…
One man has died and two others are missing after a 5.5m speedboat overturned
A father has been criticised for putting his children at risk after they were rescued without lifejackets from a sinking…
The Coastguard warning comes after a man narrowly escaped injury after he 'flipped out' of a speedboat
Four rescued seconds before their speedboat sinks in the Thames