THE director of a yacht management company was more interested in saving money than protecting the inexperienced crew of the doomed yacht Cheeki Rafiki a court heard.

The yacht sank in the Atlantic with loss of its four crew members, including James Male from Romsey.

Douglas Innes, pictured, director of Stormforce Coaching Ltd should have hired a professional crew or had the Cheeki Rafiki shipped back as it would have been safer – but he did not to save money, the court was told.

Innes, 42, of Southampton, is charged with four counts of manslaughter as well as failing to operate a ship in a safe manner. His company, Stormforce Coaching Limited, also faces the latter charge.

In addition to James Male, skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, from Surrey, and guests Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, both from Somerset, died when sailing back from Antigua in May 2014.

Winchester Crown Court, heard the three-tonne lead keel would have suffered damage from previous grounding incidents, which would have also damaged the keel bolts.

Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC said: “The safest way to get her home was to hire a professional crew or ship her home but, of course, that costs money.

“Innes knew the owner of the boat didn’t need it back in the UK that summer, but Innes had bookings back home for the boat.

“He had customers booked all the way through to November 2014 and could not afford for her to be away.

Mr Lickley QC explained if a yacht is not regularly inspected, it loses its permit and falls ‘out of code’, limiting the trips it’s allowed to do.

Cheeki Rafiki had fallen out of code and he said Innes had the chance to have it inspected ahead of the journey, but didn’t.

“The guests [Mr Goslin and Mr Warren] arrived in Antigua in April and were told by Innes the yacht was out of code so they could not do training days promised in the itinerary. He offered a refund.

“Why did he not schedule an inspection before Cheeki Rafiki left the UK or while she was in Antigua? It would have cost relatively little and would have been easy to do.

“The answer is money. The keel would have needed replacing because of the damage.

“The disregard from him not to have the yacht inspected shows his lack of regard to the duty imposed upon him.

“Despite knowing she was out of code and had not been inspected for three years, he allowed it.

“Evidence suggests how dependent the crew were on Innes for the route home. He directed them north so as to avoid the Azures to get home as quickly as possible.

“Emails show they were lacking understanding of where to go and Innes was their only point of contact. He rarely instigated contact and did not contact often.”

The trial continues.