The skipper of a boat that sailed past the distressed Sword of Orion during the Sydney-Hobart Race 1998 has been exonerated

The meteorological bomb that hit the Bass Strait during the 1998 Sydney Hobart Race brought tragedy to many, not least the crew of Sword of Orion, the boat from which Britain’s Olympic Star helmsman Glyn Charles was lost.

During the storm, but after a towering wave swept Glyn Charles from the wheel and snapped his harness, the Margaret Rintoul II passed close to the stricken yacht and reported its position but did not stop. After the race, the incident was reported and the investigation has just concluded.

Rule 1.1 of the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) ‘requires all boats and competitors to give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger.’ Richard Purcell, the skipper of the Margaret Rintoul II, had not done so.

Having heard all the evidence, the Protest Committee exonerated Purcell, citing that in the light of the extreme weather conditions at the time, and the fact that Margaret Rintoul II’s own engine was no longer working, the decision not to turn back and render direct assistance was appropriate. The Committee did mention deficiencies in radio procedure onboard Margaret Rintoul II but concluded that those deficiencies were not intentional and did not constitute a gross breach of the rule.

“The New South Wales Coroner made his own findings and comments in relation to this incident,” said CYCA Commodore Hans Sommer. “They are not inconsistent with the findings of the Protest Committee, and the criticisms made by him remain part of the record in the Coroner’s Report.”