Douglas Innes from Stormforce Coaching, which managed the Cheeki Rafiki, has denied four counts of manslaughter at Winchester Crown Court.

5 December, 2016

The director of Stormforce Coaching Limited, Douglas Innes, has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of four crew, who died when their yacht capsized in the North Atlantic.

The Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel when it was returning from Antigua Sailing Week in May 2014.

The crew –  Andrew Bridge, James Male, Stephen Warren and Paul Goslin – all lost their lives.

Cheeki Rafiki was managed by Stormforce Coaching Limited.

Innes, 41, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton, denied four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence when he appeared before Winchester Crown Court on 5 December 2016.

Along with his company, Stormforce Coaching, he also pleaded not guilty to failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner in accordance with section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

The case has been adjourned for trial until 6 June, 2017.


3 November, 2016

The director of a firm that managed the Cheeki Rafiki has appeared in court charged with four counts of gross negligence manslaughter.

The yacht capsized in the North Atlantic in May 2014 after losing its keel.

The four crew – Andrew Bridge, James Male, Stephen Warren and Paul Goslin – all lost their lives.

Douglas Innes, 41, of Whitworth Crescent, Southampton appeared before Southampton Magistrates’ Court on 3 November, 2016.

He is also charged, along with his company, Stormforce Coaching, with failing to ensure the vessel was operated in a safe manner in accordance with section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

No plea was entered and Innes was bailed to appear at Winchester Crown Court on 5 December, 2016.

The families of the four men were all in court for the hearing.

The 40ft Cheeki Rafiki was returning from Antigua Sailing Week to Southampton when it foundered.


7 October, 2016

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) says that after a two year investigation into the sinking of the Cheeki Rafiki, the Crown Prosecution Service is to bring charges.

The MCA has been looking into the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Cheeki Rafiki after it sank in the North Atlantic with the loss of its crew in May 2014.

In a statement, the MCA said: “Following that extensive investigation, a decision has been made by the Crown Prosecution Service to bring charges against Douglas Innes and Stormforce Coaching Limited.”

Ian Harris, from the Crown Prosecution Service Wessex, said: “We have authorised the charging of Douglas Innes with four counts of gross negligence manslaughter and Douglas Innes and Stormforce Coaching Limited with one charge contrary to section 100 Merchant Shipping Act 1995.”

“These charges relate to the deaths of Andrew Bridge, James Male, Stephen Warren and Paul Goslin in the North Atlantic in May 2014, following the loss of the keel on their yacht, the Cheeki Rafiki. The decision to charge was taken in accordance with the Code of Crown Prosecutors,” added Harris.

Douglas Innes and a representative of Stormforce Coaching Limited will appear at Southampton Magistrates court on the 3 November, 2016.


29 April, 2015

A report into the loss of the charter yacht Cheeki Rafiki has identified several factors that may have played a part in the tragic accident.

The report states that the most likely cause for the keel’s failure was a combined effect of previous groundings and subsequent repairs which may have weakened its structure.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its findings almost a year after the incident happened on May 16, 2014.

The vessel capsized in adverse weather conditions when the yacht’s keel detached from the hull, causing the vessel to flip upside down within a matter of seconds.

Crewmembers Andrew Bridge, 22, James Male, 22, Steve Warren, 52 and Paul Goslin 56 were all lost as a result of the incident, despite extensive searches by rescue crews.

During the rescue effort, the vessel’s hull was found and divers searched the yacht but they were unable to locate any crew.

While on board they discovered that the vessel’s liferaft was still stored in its original position, aft of the helm position, in accordance with the vessel’s design.

In the days leading up to the keel’s failure, skipper Andrew Bridge had reported to Storm Coaching Ltd that Cheeki Rafiki was taking on water in worsening weather and they were unable to identify the cause of the ingress.

The crew, who had been on a non-stop passage to Southampton from Antigua, had planned to divert to the Azores following the discovery but the vessel’s structure failed before they could reach the location.

Cheeki Rafiki

In the report, the MAIB said: “In the absence of survivors and material evidence, the causes of the accident remain a matter of some speculation. However, it is concluded that Cheeki Rafiki capsized and inverted following a detachment of its keel.

“In the absence of any apparent damage to the hull or rudder other than that directly associated with keel detachment, it is unlikely that the vessel had struck a submerged object.

“Instead, a combined effect of previous groundings and subsequent repairs to its keel and matrix had possibly weakened the vessel’s structure where the keel was attached to the hull.

“It is also possible that one or more keel bolts had deteriorated. A consequential loss of strength may have allowed movement of the keel, which would have been exacerbated by increased transverse loading through sailing in worsening sea conditions.”

Cheeki Rafiki had previously grounded twice in 2007 and after each incident the yacht was inspected and repaired. The vessel also went on to ground at least four more times, however they were described as ‘light’.

Although much significance may not have been placed on these additional groundings at the time, the MAIB report goes on to state that it is possible that some of those ‘light’ groundings could have significantly affected the integrity of the matrix attachment in way of the keel.

They also said that it was possible further unreported ‘light’ groundings could have occurred, only increasing the likelihood that the keel attachment structure had been weakened.


Another contributing factor to the accident may have been that the vessel’s category 2 certification was allowed to lapse, meaning no authorised person had examined the yacht since its coding survey in 2011.

“It is possible that any indications of a potential structural problem might have been identified had the annual examinations required by the SCV Code been conducted”, said the report.

The MAIB investigation also identified that skipper Andrew Bridge had limited ocean experience and was the only crew member who held an RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Ocean or Yachtmaster Offshore certificate of competence.

If another member of the crew had the same qualifications, the skipper could have consulted with them on the passage, weather and subsequent events.

Anther contributing factor to the loss of Cheeki Rafiki was the weather. Forecast data in the days leading up to the incident showed that the crew experienced winds of force 7 and waves almost 5m high.

In an email, the skipper described how Cheeki Rafiki had started taking on water after hitting a big wave.

“Whether or not the ‘big wave’ on 14 May weakened the vessel’s structure sufficiently to initiate the water ingress is uncertain. However, without evidence to indicate otherwise, it is concluded that the cause of the water ingress was related to the worsening weather conditions”, said the report.

Cheeki Rafiki

As a result of the investigation a number of bodies have been given recommendations to help prevent similar accidents in the future.

The yacht’s operator, Stormforce Coaching Ltd, has made changes to its internal policies and has taken a number of actions aimed at preventing a recurrence.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will work with the RYA to clarify the requirements for stowing liferafts on coded vessels. The RYA has also drafted enhancements to its Sea Survival Handbook relating to the possibility of a keel failure.

The BMF has been advised to co-ordinate industry-wide best practice guidance on the inspection and repair of yachts where a glass reinforced plastic matrix and hull have been bonded together.
Another recommendation has also been made to the MCA to provide more explicit guidance about circumstances under which commercial certification for small vessels is required, and when it is not.

Further recommendations have been made to sport governing bodies with regard to raise awareness in the yachting community of the potential damage caused by any grounding, and the factors to be taken into consideration when planning ocean passages.

MAIB chief inspector Steve Clinch said: “I hope that this report will serve as a reminder to all yacht operators, skippers and crews of the particular dangers associated with conducting ocean passages, and the need for comprehensive planning and preparation before undertaking such ventures.

“On long offshore passages, search and rescue support cannot be relied upon in the same way as it is when operating closer to the coast, and yachts’ crews need a much higher degree of self-sufficiency in the event of an emergency.

“Thus the selection and stowage of safety and survival equipment needs to be very carefully considered before embarking, together with options for contingency planning and self-help in anticipation of problems that could occur during the passage.”


  • Mike

    The tragic loss of the Cheeki Rafiki and crew should be a very stark reminder of how dangerous the North Atlanic is. To have made that crosing in an uncertified vessel and inexperienced skipper is beyond excuse. Yacht people should get real – don’t mess with the sea!
    Written by a retired master mariner (Class 1) who crossed the North Atlantic many times on a ship in both directions.