Yachtsman Roland Wilson is accused of flouting maritime law during Cowes Week collision

PBO contributor
James Stevens’ latest report from the trial of a yachtsman accused
of flouting maritime law.

Royal Navy
lieutenant Roland Wilson’s Corby 33 yacht Atalanta was involved in a collision with a
120,000-ton Hanne Knutsen tanker during Cowes Week 2011.

Wilson is charged with contravening three Colregs – Convention on the International Regulations for
Preventing Collisions at Sea:

Rule 5; He did not
keep an adequate lookout.

Rule 9b; He
impeded a large vessel in a narrow channel.

Rule 18; He
impeded a vessel constrained by its draft.

Yesterday the trial resumed at Southampton Magistrates Court.

Simon Lusty, Marine Officer
and helmsman of the Southampton Port Escort boat SP1 was the first witness.

said he approached the yacht Atalanta and told it to start its engine to get
out of the way and received an acknowledgement from the crew. He then left the yacht to attend the disabled motor boat the Joy C, which was also in
the path of the ship.

It did not occur to him that the yacht would carry on in
the same direction and collide with the ship. He assisted the yacht once it had
passed down the side of the ship and was clear of the tug astern of the ship.

crew member was injured so he sought advice from a paramedic from the Hamble
lifeboat who said the casualty should be taken to hospital but did not require
a helicopter evacuation.

‘A relatively simple situation
turned into a complicated one’

Commander Mike Shrives,
General Secretary of the Royal Naval Sailing Association, was the navigator and joint tactician on board Atalanta on the day.

On seeing the escort
boat move north he assumed the ship would follow and the single blast on the
ships whistle confirmed this.

He considered that the reason
for the accident was that he had expected the ship to follow the escort boat and
that Atlanta would avoid the prohibited zone by passing port to port.

When it
was obvious the ship was not going to turn as expected the yacht turned further
to starboard. He said a relatively simple situation turned into a complicated

Judge Calloway, a keen sailor
and yacht owner, asked why he had not gybed back on to port and headed North
East. Mike Shrives admitted that
in hindsight it would have been better but thought that by doing so he would
have contravened the MPZ and passed between the escort boat and the ship.

Jumping crew member

Commander Adrian Wheal RN
took the stand. He was the mainsheet trimmer and was the crew member who jumped
off the yacht before the collision.

He concurred that as the escort boat had
headed north that he thought the ship would follow. He jumped over the side
about five to 10 seconds before the collision. He said Atalanta was on the port
side of the ship and made contact with the bow. He was swept down the starboard
side of the ship by the bow wave.

The case continues today,
Wednesday, when Roland Wilson the skipper and defendant will give evidence.

A detailed report
of the trial will be published in the December 2013 issue of PBO.

Photos:courtesy of Tim Addison at