Mark Litchfield, skipper of the Maria Assumpta, is free to retake Yachtmaster exams and become a master again

Yacht skipper Mark Litchfield, who was jailed for 18 months for manslaughter after the Maria Assumpta tragedy, can re-qualify as a ship’s master, the RYA confirms.

Litchfield’s Yachtmaster Offshore and Yachtmaster Ocean certificates, which entitled him to sail as master of the square rigger, were suspended after the Maria Assumpta foundered on rocks in Cornwall. The decision was taken after a tribunal in which evidence from witnesses and Litchfield himself was heard.

The tribunal also set out the terms of reinstatement: ‘The examiner carrying out the exam (is to) pay particular attention to his ability to make sound decisions on the delegation of responsibility and on his ability to carry out visual pilotage in situations which require rapid detection of the fact that a vessel is being set off track and to take immediate action to counteract such a set,’ it stated.

In answer to criticisms that they should ban Litchfield permanently, the RYA say that they regard his prison sentence as punishment enough and that his competence is the only issue of concern. Defending themselves against complaints that they should have consulted relatives of those who lost their lives when Maria Assumpta foundered, they say that the RYA ‘believes that questions of nautical competence are best decided by those with relevant nautical experience’.

Their decision will be backed up by at least one of the relatives. Darren Taylor, the son of ship’s cook Ann Taylor, who was lost in the accident, says: “I don’t blame Mr Litchfield. It was a tragic accident. I don’t understand how he was found guilty . . . I would not blame him; he is going through enough already.”