The powerboat collision in October 2010 left one girl with a 'life-changing' brain injury

Cardiff sailing club and its Chief Instructor has been made to pay
£67,000 in fines and costs after failing to take proper care of
children attending one of their courses.

The Chief Instructor, Nicholas
Sawyer was also ordered to carry out 180 hours of community service.

Motor Boat and Sailing Club, trading as Cardiff Bay Yacht Club, and its
Chief Instructor Nicholas Sawyer pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing
to charges relating to failures in their duty of care for children
attending a residential course in October 2010.

What happened?

The four-day sail training event was attended by 24 girls aged between 10 and 14. On the evening of 27 October 2010, after a day’s training, the girls were taken ice skating. On leaving the rink at 8pm the girls boarded the four club rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) to take them across Cardiff Bay back
to their accommodation.

It was dark and the RHIBs had no navigation
lights, even though this is required by law. The children were not
supplied with lifejackets and were expected to use their own floatation

Two of
the RHIB coxswains were paid contractors employed by Cardiff Bay Yacht
Club but were not qualified for navigating at night. A collision took
place between the two RHIBs being controlled by these coxswains, and
some of the children were thrown in to the water.

One of the girls, aged
10, was knocked momentarily unconscious when she was thrown into the
water. All the girls were recovered from the water and taken ashore.

following day the girl who was knocked unconscious began to deteriorate
and was collected and taken to hospital by her mother. This child was
later diagnosed as suffering from a life-changing brain injury for which
she is still receiving treatment.

Another child suffered three
compressed discs in her spine.

incident was not reported to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)
and the agency was unaware of the incident until the parents of the
severely injured girl contacted Cardiff Marine Office a year later.


Sentencing took place yesterday, Friday 30 May 2014, at Cardiff Crown Court.

In passing sentence, Judge Bidder said: ‘This
serious accident would not have happened if the Cardiff Bay Yacht Club
and Nick Sawyer had assessed risk before transporting children across
the bay …. It is important for those responsible for children’s safety
on water to realise why assessing risks is necessary.’

Mr Robert Cotter, Surveyor in Charge at Cardiff Marine Office said: ‘When
you entrust your child into someone else’s care you expect them to do
everything necessary to keep them safe.

‘The MCA takes a very dim view of the actions of Cardiff Bay Yacht Club
and Nicholas Sawyer and their attitude to safety.

powered RHIBs need to be used responsibly. Operating these vessels in
the dark with no navigation lights is foolish in the extreme. The safety
of all on board and other users of Cardiff Bay should be the number one priority and this wasn’t the case.’

Pictures: Cardiff Bay Yacht Club