Sailing school boss and skipper cleared by jury on two of three charges

A skipper and owner of a sailing school yacht that was rescued in a Force 10 have been found not guilty of breaching the Merchant Shipping Act by Southampton Crown Court.

Liquid Vortex, a Beneteau First 40.7, was rescued by the RNLI in the early hours of January 3 off Dungeness Point on passage from Southampton to the London Boat Show.

Skipper Charlie Sturrock, 51, was found not guilty of a charge relating to the planning of the voyage.

However, the jury was hung on the charge against Mr Sturrock of failing to identify and assess risks to the vessel and crew.

Jason Manning, the managing director of Hot Liquid sailing school, was found not guilty of failing to check weather forecasts.

On Friday the judge ordered the jury to find the duo not guilty of four charges.

Judge Peter Ralls decided there was not enough evidence to convict Mr Sturrock of sailing at night without proper equipment, Mr Manning for failing to contact HM Coastguard or either man for failing to comply with standard operating procedures,  

Since the rescue, Hot Liquid has since been suspended by the RYA from providing practical courses in the UK and Mr Sturrock had his Yachtmaster revoked by an RYA/MCA panel.

The MCA brought the charges against the two men, arguing that Mr Sturrock’s ‘acts or omissions caused or were likely to cause loss, destruction, death or injury’, while Mr Manning, 36, had failed to ‘discharge a duty’.

Costs were awarded against the MCA, which has 14 days to ask for a retrial on the undecided charge.

Six crew members of varying experience joined Mr Sturrock on board Liquid Vortex, including his daughter.

They paid £225 to join the voyage, which was advertised as a mile-builder with likely overnight stops in Brighton and Ramsgate.

The court earlier heard that some of the crew suffered from hypothermia and seasickness as the wind and sea state worsened during the voyage.

Hot Liquid hit by corporate insolvency.

Hot Liquid skipper loses his Yachtmaster.

Hot Liquid UK banned from offering RYA training courses.

Major rescue for sailing school yacht.