Club Med skipper fined £12,000 for not adhering to Dover Straits traffic management scheme

Grant Dalton, skipper of the maxi catamaran Club Med today appeared at Southampton Magistrates Court charged with contravening Rule 10 of the ColReg and for travelling the wrong way through the Dover Strait on Wednesday night.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) who brought the charges against the Kiwi former Whitbread winner, state ‘a Watch Officer at Dover Coastguard noticed a fast craft had crossed over from the north east lane and was heading the wrong way at speeds of up to 20 knots up the south west lane, in effect crossing the central reservation. During the incident the Club Med passed 17 ships and several had to take evasive action. Two crossing ferries with over 800 people on board had close quarters situations with the yacht and one ship carrying dangerous goods and pollutants came within just a few hundred yards. The Club Med was eventually recorded to have travelled over 20miles the wrong way up of what is the nautical dual carriageway against the traffic flow.’

At the time Club Med was on a delivery trip to London from Southampton, and her ostensibly careering across the shipping lanes was in fact her short tacking up the Channel – gybing downwind in a 15-20 knot south westerly. Although the catamaran did not cross the shipping lanes on a perpendicular course, her course was not directly along them (everyone on board was keen to get out of the shipping lanes as soon as possible) and far from taking a cavalier approach and waiting for vessels under power to give way, she too took evasive action to avoid collisions.

The attention of Dover Coastguard may have been particularly alerted as Club Med is fitted with an active radar reflector. In retrospect one can imagine the alarm of other shipping in the area seeing a vessel appearing on their radar screen, with the same speed and size of radar blip as a large ship ostensibly careering through the shipping lanes the wrong way at a speed that was in fact consistently 20-24 knots and peaked at 29 knots.

Dalton admitted responsibility, was fined a hefty 12,000 pounds and ordered to pay a further 3,000 pounds costs. Club Med is due to sail through the Dover Strait again tonight, bound for the Club Med base at Vilamoura, Portugal. This time Dalton and his navigator Mike Quilter, will undoubtedly adhere to the rules.