A decision that you can't modify or retrofit equipment after manufacture without invalidating your RCD code has seriously worrying implications

No, sadly this is not an April Fool’s Day joke. I wish!

In a ruling that will affect thousands of boatowners the European Commission has decided that any aftersales modifications to any part of a boat after manufacture, such as fitting an autopilot or self-steering gear, will invalidate the yacht’s RCD code. This is a massive blow to owners of new yachts who choose to have extras fitted at a later date and is effectively a licence to print money for manufacturers supplying all those pricey extras.

And what about the rest of us with older boats we are continually pampering and upgrading? Where does that leave us?

The ruling came about because of the case of Megawat, the Irish Hanse 371 that lost her rudder and quickly sank in the Irish Sea in 2005 after the incorrect retrofitting of an autopilot ram to the alloy rudder stock. As a result of the same case, the European Commision is also advising against using copper antifouling anywhere near an alloy rudder stock.

The Commission has penalised many owners and marine trades by drawing sweeping conclusions from one case. If they had wanted to be helpful, why did they not point out that perhaps alloy is not the best material from which to make a rudder stock and/or that standards for the design and manufacture of rudders should ensure that if they do fail they do not rip out completely and lead to a sinking? Answers on a postcard, please.

I’ll be investigating this in the June issue of Yachting World.