THE Royal Yachting Association has scrapped head-to-head powerboat racing for children under 12 years old after an inquiry into a near-fatal crash off Portland attacked its safety record.

Accident investigators examining a crash in Portland Harbour which left a 13-year-old powerboat driver badly injured said the organisation had failed to properly investigate accidents and allowed inexperienced youngsters to compete.

Powerboat driver Ben Ridd, now 14, from Poole, was left in a coma for three weeks and was partially paralysed as a result of the accident, which happened when two boats collided at a race marker on June 19, 2005.

RYA powerboat racing manager John Puddifoot said: "This incident has had a tragic and lasting impact on the life of a young person and of his family.

"Despite what has happened, powerboat racing retains one of the best safety records of any form of motorised sport in the UK."

In a statement the RYA said that competitive racing for eight to 12-year-olds was no longer acceptable' and would also no longer be sanctioned.' Following the accident and an internal investigation, the RYA has requested that the Wanda Offshore Racing Klubb, which organised the International Youth Powerboat Championship where the crash occurred, keep detailed logs of children's training.

The RYA which oversees the licensing of children's powerboat racing said all under-18s were now required to undertake a theoretical and practical examination in all aspects of powerboat handling and racing.

A Marine Accident Investigation Branch report into the incident found two of the children had less then 10 hours' experience on the boats.

The RYA asked defence group Qinetiq to investigate the safety of helmets worn by competitors after accident investigators expressed doubts about their effectiveness.

The accident report also said that after the crash Ben Ridd's helmet had been found floating in the water and added that the helmets had not been tested either for their suitability for children or for powerboat racing.

Racing helmets, said the RYA, would have to comply with a new safety standard as a result of tests.

A spokesman for the RYA added: "It is always of great concern when a competitor of our relatively small powerboat racing family of enthusiasts is injured."