Inquest Into Sailor's Death In Yacht Race

A man's told an inquest how he battled to rescue his father after he fell overboard from his yacht during a race in rough seas.

Experienced sailor Christopher Reddish, 46, drowned after falling from his 38ft racing yacht named Lion during the Morgan Cup race between Cowes, Isle of Wight, and Cherbourg, France.

The father-of-one had been trying to recover a sail which was dragging in the water just after midnight on June 18 as the vessel was around 20 miles south-east of the island.

Giving evidence at an inquest into his death, his son Alexander Reddish, 21, said he was asleep below deck when he heard a ''commotion'' above.

He went upstairs to find there was swell of three to four metres and heavy winds of up to 30 knots.

He said: ''I heard a shout of man overboard. I immediately stood up, looked up and realised it was my father that had gone overboard, so then I just ran up to the front of the boat to try and recover him.''

He said his father was wearing a top of the range life jacket and was still attached to the yacht via a strap line, and he and some of the other six crew members on board immediately tried to pull him in.

The large waves were continually going over his head and he kept getting knocked against the side of the boat.

They also found the foul weather gear he was wearing had become saturated with water making him heavy, and he was also slippery and hard to grip hold of.

Mr Reddish jnr, who lived near his father in Clapham, south London, said he also appeared to be unconscious.

''I was shouting at him but I was receiving no response,'' he said.

He and the crew decided to winch his father out of the water, but when they did there were no signs of life.

Another member of the eight-strong team was a doctor, and he confirmed Mr Reddish snr was already dead.

Dr Robert Cargill told the inquest he believed he had been in the water for around 15 minutes and there had been no signs of life throughout.

He said: ''I thought that attempting a resuscitation would be futile and perhaps dangerous.''

Dr Cargill added that although the post-mortem examination found Mr Reddish died of drowning and showed no sign of a head injury, it was still possible that he could have hit his head either as he fell or as he hit the yacht's hull as they attempted the rescue.

Nobody saw him fall, but crew member David Hale said he had last seen Mr Reddish lying on the deck with his arms stretched over his head as he tried to pull away part of the sail as it appeared to be either still connected to the yacht or had become snagged.

Mr Hale said the sail had been stored at the bow of the yacht but had somehow become loose and started dragging in the water.

He said Mr Reddish had been pulling the sail in from the front of the yacht and he had been collecting it up, but the last part of it would not come.

Mr Reddish appeared to have rectified the problem as he gave a thumbs up sign, but the next thing he knew, he became aware of a flashing strobe light, and realised it was coming from his life jacket and that he had gone overboard.

Mr Hale said he and the yacht's trimmer, Grant Borthwick, ''both pulled for all our life's worth trying to get him back on the boat'' , which was still moving and dragging him along with it.

He said he then shouted for help and they were then joined by Mr Reddish jnr and other crew members.

Twice divorced Mr Reddish, described as a ''very active man'' who loved rock climbing and horse riding, kept his yacht at Shamrock Quay in Southampton, from where the yacht had set off the day before.

He and his team were taking part in the race to qualify for the 600 mile Fastnet Race, which takes place every two years.

Sebastian Edmonds, technical manager at the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), told the inquest at Chichester Magistrates' Court in West Sussex that he felt the team had been compliant with safety legislation.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, West Sussex Deputy Coroner Martin Milward said the other crew members had ''made extensive, valiant attempts to recover Christopher from the water''.

He added: ''Generally we have to accept the fact that sailing, and in particular racing, is not without risk.

''Racing and sailing can be very enjoyable and worthwhile pursuits and thankfully incidents such as these are rare.''

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Reddish's mother Elsie Reddish said: ''He loved life and lived it to the full. He was a wonderful son and father and brother.''

She said Mr Reddish developed his love of sailing after spending 13 years in the Navy, where he had risen to the rank of lieutenant commander.

His brother, Michael Reddish, added: ''We are utterly devastated. He was a great man with a great future.''

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