Solent Sailing Situation

Report Text:

My yacht was sailing in the Solent in wind force 2-3, speed over ground 4.5 knots. We became aware of a coaster 20-30 degrees on our starboard bow, approximately 5 miles away. We monitored progress and course for possible collision. The bearing remained steady throughout and we were sure vessel had ample opportunity to alter course and speed as appropriate for a sailing vessel on a port tack approaching.

We became very concerned that no alteration of course or speed was made by the approaching vessel and that a possible collision situation was fast becoming a reality. We maintained our course until we were sure that no corrective action would be made by the vessel. We then made a turn to starboard to avoid collision. The vessel passed very close, approximately 25 yards away, maintaining her course and speed.

At the time of the incident a large fleet of sailing dinghies were racing through this area accompanied by a RIB.

CHIRP Comment:

We contacted the ship’s manager who responded as follows:

The officer on watch at the reported time of the incident does not recall the particular yacht in question and does not consider that an “incident” occurred. Consequently there is no formal record on board the vessel. The watch keeper’s recollection of the passage on that day is that there was a very high degree of yacht activity in the area. A fleet of yachts was racing ahead of the vessel’s track, accompanied by a control RIB. Additionally there was a ship approaching on our vessels’ port bow. The density of yacht traffic and proximity of the other ship meant that it was not possible to treat each craft individually with early and substantial action and so our vessel’s speed was reduced so that the regatta could cross ahead. The action of reducing speed was considered sufficient to alleviate the situation, both in terms of the regatta and the other recreational craft in the area and with consideration for the approaching ship.

It is of course the case that the collision regulations do apply in these circumstances, and the action taking by our vessel was considered appropriate and in accordance with those regulations (Rule 2b) given the special circumstances (proximity and density of traffic). If any anxiety was caused to the yachtsman in question this was not intentional and is regretted.

We have included this report in the Commercial Section of this journal as we believe it useful to encourage mutual understanding between commercial mariners and yachtsmen. Our general advice is that if you are on the bridge of a ship in such circumstances, try to visualise the situation as it is being perceived from the cockpit of the yacht, and vice versa.