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Blue Water Rally Yacht and four crew seajacked in the Indian Ocean

by Nancy Knudsen on 19 Feb 2011
Quest owners Jean and Scott Adams, now kidnapped along with two crew SW
These cruising sailors had left the rally they were travelling with and are now in the hands of Somali pirates. http://www.ecoterra.net!Ecoterra, long time piracy watch and environmental organisation, has reported that a yacht was seajacked by pirates on the 18th February, from a position in the Indian Ocean 282 nautical miles south east of Sur in Oman.

It was attacked at position 18°00 N 061°02 E at the time of 13.23 UTC, according to the report, which says that the seajacking has been confirmed by NATO.

Sailing vessel Quest was seized and four Americans on board are being held hostage. The sailing yacht was reportedly en route from India to Salalah, Oman, the route that an escort had been requested for, but refused, by the Navies patrolling the Indian Ocean.

Quest is a Davidson 58 Pilot House Sloop on a round-world cruise owned by Jean and Scott Adam who have been on their journey more than seven years already. They were part of the Oz-Med Rally, which is itself part of the Blue Water Round World Rally. The yacht, however, was not sailing with the Rally at the time and not along a rally-recommended route, even though this would have once have been a normal route. According to Blue Water Rally organiser Peter Seymour the yacht Quest had sailed with the event from Phuket to Mumbai. Speaking of the seajacking, Mr Seymour said, 'The skipper then made a decision to leave the Rally in Mumbai on 15 February and sail a route independent of the Rally to Salalah.'

No further details are available at the moment, but it is known that up to 100 yachts crewed by around 250 cruising sailors, including two rallies, who had been refused protection by the EU forces placed in the Indian Ocean to protect shipping, are now making their own way through the new danger zone unprotected.

As yachts do not carry cargo, they have never fallen under a protection category, and all authorities, including the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) have recommended that yachts do not transit the Gulf of Aden, traditionally the danger zone for pirates.

However, the situation has changed radically in the Indian Ocean in the last few months, even more in the last few weeks, with pirates in control of captured vessels which range across thousands of miles of ocean in mother ships, sending their skiffs to attack in a wide area of the once-safe ocean.

According to Rene and Edith Tiemessen, who have organised a another convoy of 30 yachts to travel from Thailand to Turkey, the Gulf of Aden is now not the problem, and the yachts are caught in a situation which developed after they left their home oceans.

According to the Tiemessens, over the years a clear view has developed as to how to organize the convoy from Salalah into the Red Sea. 'Salalah to the Red Sea is not the issue,' he maintains. The position of the captured yacht indicates that it was trying to reach Salalah, the route over which the Tiemessens had asked for an escort.

The Tiemessens had asked continually for an escort, not for the Gulf of Aden, but for the 30 yachts in their convoy and up to 70 other yachts, including the Oz-Med Rally who wanted to join them across the Indian Ocean on a four day journey to Salalah. The yachts must move during the sailing season, and, rejected by the naval forces, were forced to proceed without escort.

Tiemessen had forbodings. 'Something bad is going to happen,' he told me two weeks ago by satellite phone, 'The families on these boats are starting to panic and go off in different directions. With the dramatic increase in pirate activity in the Indian Ocean I cannot believe that all 100 yachts can get through unscathed.'

Two cruising sailors are still in captivity, Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari, who were kidnapped by pirates last year off the coast of East Africa in October last year. Ransom demands have been made, but no-one has spoken to the couple since their capture.
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