Yacht wreck owner gets £200,000 pay-out

The hull of the Queequeg breaks up in a swirl of white water

BREAKING UP: The Queequeg was blown on to rocks within minutes

The wreck of the classic yacht Queequeg in James Bay in 2011 has resulted in an out-of-court settlement approaching a quarter of a million pounds.

The veteran racing yacht broke its mooring and was blown onto rocks at the Needle’s Eye within five minutes while owner Graham Elliot and his two crew were ashore.

They were just clearing Customs, ready to sail for Ascension, when the alarm was raised.

View across James Bay to the yacht on the rocks

ON THE ROCKS: Queequeg came to grief on Munden’s Point

An investigation found the St Helena Government’s moorings had been condemned as unsafe months earlier.

The Attorney General, Ken Baddon, has confirmed to Saint FM radio station that a settlement of £228,000 has been accepted.

St Helena Government has advertised a contract to lay – and maintain – new moorings in time for the Governor’s Cup yacht race at Christmas.

Yachtsmen have spoken of being unable to relax while at the island because of unreliable moorings, and it is not uncommon for drifting yachts to be retrieved by the ferry crew.

The Queequeg was built by a famous designer in Australia in 1972 and had competed in the Sydney-Hobart race. Mr Elliot bought her only 18 months before the wrecking and had her fully restored in Thailand.

She had arrived at the island on passage from South Africa to the UK, five days before she was wrecked.

Local ferry staff had directed her crew to a mooring, not knowing it had been declared unfit for use.

The Queequeg lies on its side, barely visible through white surf

WHITE WATER: The Queequeg could not be towed clear

It later emerged that the moorings had been commissioned only as a short term project by St Helena Tourism a year earlier.

No one was made responsible for supervising the moorings and they were not rated for the size or weight of vessels using them. No maintenance schedule was put in place.

Within weeks of the moorings being laid by a diver it was noticed that they were starting to fall apart because copper wire fittings were corroding.

Parts were replaced, but by January 2011 – eight months before the wreck of the Queequeg – all 20 moorings had been affected and the installer said they should all be taken out of use.

A police investigation found that despite this, no updated advice was published by the Tourism Department, and yachts continued to use the moorings.

Examination of the wreck found a rope had broken from the shackle attaching it to the chain on the seabed. A diver found shackles had corroded.

The wrecking was triggered by a change in weather conditions on the day.

Wreckage is lifted ashore by crane, showing the wooden frame of the yacht

SALVAGED: The yacht’s timber construction shows as wreckage is craned ashore

The police investigation was carried out by Sergeant Chris Shuter, a qualified yachtmaster and former yacht club commodore.

He made a number of recommendations, including that any new moorings should be professionally designed.

Queequeg owner Graham Elliot and his crew spoke of wrecking on Saint FM the day after it happened.

“We rushed to the dock and saw the mast waving from side to side as she was trounced on the rocks,” said Graham.

They had watched as the rescue boat crew tried to tow her free, but the swell had lifted her above the surf-line.

Laptops, cameras and other electrical equipment were destroyed but a couple of bags of clothes floated free and were salvaged.

“There’s no point in crying,” said Graham. “We can be thankful that we’re all safe and there’s nobody hurt.”

One of the crew, named Ted, said: “I’ve worked on boats for the last 40 years and this is the first time I’ve seen a boat break up. I’m devasted for Graham because he’s lost everything.

The yachtsmen said the understanding shown by Saints had been “very, very kind”.

SEE ALSO:
GALLERY: The wreck of the Queequeg (pictures by Bruce Salt)

LINK:
Saint FM / St Helena Independent

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