The mother of injured powerboater Ben Ridd sued the Royal Yachting Association to cover the cost of his care


A teenager who suffered life-changing head injuries in a high-speed powerboat race staged at Portland Harbour today won a £5.5million compensation payout.

Olympic torchbearer, Ben Ridd, now 23, was struck by the bows of a pursuing Sorcerer-type boat in the June 2005 tragedy.

The vessel, K11, he was co-piloting “hooked and came to a stop in the water” after rounding a marker buoy, his QC, John Ross, told London’s High Court.

According to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report the collision occurred as a fleet of nine boats, each with a maximum speed of about 31mph, was rounding the first 90-degree left turn marker buoy of an “M” shaped course.

The boats were still bunched as the first mark was only 600 metres from the start line. Ben’s boat, which was being driven by a 10-year-old boy who was in his first season of powerboat racing, “”hooked”” and came to a sudden and unexpected stop directly in the path of a following boat.

The other boat, which was being driven by an 11 year old who was also in his first season of racing, had no time in which to take avoiding action. Its bow struck the port side of the stopped boat at or near right angles and, due to its momentum, over rode its side, striking Ben the co-driver who was in the left-hand seat.

It then continued to rise vertically into the air, ejecting its two crew into the sea, before coming down stern-first into the water.

The race was stopped very quickly, and first-aid was administered to Ben by a paramedic who was a member of the race supervision team. Due to the seriousness of Ben”s injuries, he was airlifted by a coastguard helicopter to a local hospital, where he was found to be in a coma.

After the collision, Ben’s safety helmet was retrieved from the sea a short distance away.

The court was told that there was no roll bar fitted on his boat – described as a “ski boat with a low free board” and kitted out with a 25 horse power engine.

And Mr Ross explained there had been some doubt about whether the race should go ahead due to the “choppy” seas.

Ben sustained “the most severe head injuries”, said the barrister, leaving him with permanent mobility and cognitive problems.

“They have left him permanently incapacitated,” Mr Ross told the court.

Ben, of Herstons Close, Poole, was in court today as Mr Justice Mitting approved a £5.5million settlement to cover the costs of the lifetime’s care he will need.

Through his mother, Leanne Ridd, he sued the Royal Yachting Association, which oversees the organisation and safety standards in coastal racing events.

The race in which Mr Ridd came to grief involved “head-to-head racing” between children aged between 13 to 16, with boat speeds hitting over 30mph.

Ben’s lawyers claimed he “nearly died” in the accident, which led to a devastating brain haemorrage as well as other severe physical injuries.

He was in a coma for three weeks and underwent a gruelling six-month course of rehabilitation before he was allowed home.

The legacy of his accident was brain damage which rendered him paralysed down one side, but he fought back in the years after the accident to relearn some of the basic skills of life.

And in July 2012 a moment of personal triumph came when he became an Olympic torch bearer seven years after the calamity which blighted his life.

He now uses a stick to get around, but can walk for no more than a mile even with support, his lawyers say.

Mr Justice Mitting said he had “no hesitation” in approving the settlement – also giving the family his best wishes for the future.

RYA statement

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is pleased that a satisfactory settlement has been approved by the High Court following Ben Ridd’s powerboat racing accident in 2005.

The case was previously being handled by the RYA’s insurers, Navigators Insurance Company, who unilaterally decided to admit liability on behalf of the RYA in 2012.  The compensation payment has been substantially funded by the insurance policy, although Navigators withdrew from the case in July 2014.  Discussions remain ongoing between the RYA and Navigators to resolve the outstanding issues relating to the matter.

Sarah Treseder, Chief Executive of the RYA, said: ‘We welcome the conclusion to this long-running case. As with any incident of this nature, some important lessons have been learned and safety improvements implemented over the past few years as a result. We extend our best wishes to Ben and his family, as he continues his recovery.’

Read the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report into the accident here.

Picture: The K11 powerboat. Credit: MAIB