Club Med skipper fined by U.K.

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Even the mighty need to adhere to the international Rules of the Road as New Zealand sailor Grant Dalton, skipper of The Race catamaran Club Med, discovered the hard way in October. He was fined more than $17,000 by the British government’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency for proceeding the wrong way up the Dover Strait’s traffic-separation scheme.

After causing a stir by cruising the wrong way up a traffic-separation scheme off the U.K., Club Med glides under Tower Bridge.
   Image Credit: Courtesy Club Med

Dalton and his crew were delivering the 110-foot Club Med from Southampton to London Oct. 4 when they were tracked on radar as traveling north between 20 and 30 knots in the south-bound lane. Vessel traffic officials noted that the speeding target had crossed from the northeast-bound lane into the opposite lane and proceeded to dodge merchant traffic for more than an hour. Club Med reportedly came within 600 feet of a tanker and passed 17 other vessels, many of which were forced to take evasive action to avoid collision, according to multiple reports from the U.K.

The vessel was apparently short-tacking up the Channel - gybing repeatedly in the path of strong southwesterly winds. Club Med reportedly was averaging 20 knots and at one point was making 29 knots in the wrong lane.

Club Med was perhaps victim to the success of one of its pieces of navigation equipment. Unlike many sailing vessels that are equipped with passive radar reflection gear, Club Med is fitted with an active radar reflector, which emits a powerful signal to other radar. This strong target could have confused other vessel operators and traffic officials regarding the nature of the vessel proceeding at such speed, since it could have been mistaken for a renegade containership or high-speed ferry.

Dalton reportedly paid the fine. After a stopover in London, the vessel continued to Portugal for final preparations. This is the latest in a stream of problems that have plagued The Race challengers. Club Med suffered a fractured bow section in July during a transatlantic record attempt; Team Philips, the 120-foot cat being raced by British wündersailor Pete Goss, broke apart off the Scillies in the spring; and Steve Fossett's PlayStation suffered a fire last year that destroyed part of the interior.

Nonetheless, The Race, the first no-limits crewed race around the world, is slated to begin in Barcelona at midnight on Dec. 31.

By Ocean Navigator