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Wreckage of tragic yachtsmens' craft washed ashore?

City banker Jason Downer
City banker Jason Downer

WRECKAGE from a yachting tragedy that claimed the life of a Kent man and two friends may have been found on the Hampshire coastline.

Storms at the weekend washed debris onto the shore at Sandy Point, near Hayling Island, and police and coastguards say it could be part of the stricken 27 foot Sailfish sloop Ouzo.

A Hampshire Constabulary detective investigating the loss of the craft said: "We are a very long way from knowing whether the wreckage has any connection with the Ouzo. It will be subject to a thorough investigation, which will take some time."

The Ouzo left the Isle of Wight for Dartmouth on August 20 and the bodies of City banker Jason Downer, 35, from The Parade, Broadstairs, Rupert Saunders, 36, and James Meaby, 36, both from London, were found two days two days later.

Their last moments are likely to remain a mystery.

Mr Downer’s body was found in the sea wearing waterproof clothing and an inflated life jacket, an inquest heard in September. The bodies of his friends were also found in the sea.

The brief hearing at Newport on the Isle of Wight heard that they were found miles apart, leading to speculation that they went into the water at different times.

Why the yachtsmen had time to put on safety equipment but not raise any distress alarm is unknown.

A post mortem suggested that Mr Meaby had suffered hypothermia before drowning and the other two had drowned.

The friends, who were described as experienced sailors, had set out from Bembridge on the Isle of Wight at about 7.30pm on Sunday, August 20, in the yacht skippered by Mr Saunders. They were heading for the Royal Regatta at Dartmouth. They had been due to race later in the week.

Reports from the Isle of Wight suggest that the boat was likely to have been equipped with a radar boosting device that would enable a small craft like Ouzo to be detected more easily from the bridge of a large vessel.

Meanwhile, a marine investigation has been launched inviting shipping in the area at the time of the accident to provide their black box data recorders.

A 61-year-old ferry crew member who lives in Dover was questioned by police investigating the deaths and was released on bail until February pending further inquiries. He works for P&O Ferries on board the Pride of Bilbao ferry, based at Portsmouth.

The ship’s black box data recorder was examined by police and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

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