Seized French yacht carrying two couples and child

Authorities in France have released more details about the French yacht seized by pirates over the weekend. The sailing yachtTanit, pictured left, is carrying two couples and a three-year-old boy. The boat had set out from Vannes on France’s Atlantic coast in July last year en route to the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar before it was seized on Saturday.

France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said today that authorities had pinpointed the location of the hijacked yacvht. M Kouchner told RTL radio: ‘We know where they are. Even if I had details, I would not give them because this anti-piracy operation initiated by France now involves several countries.’

French couple Chloe and Florent Lemacon left France with their son Colin, then two years old, aboard the 42ft flush-decked Colin Archer cutter and picked up another couple along the way. They were planning to sail via Kenya.

The skipper had spoken to his father shortly before his boat was seized by pirates, and reported engine failure. The boat was taken in mid-ocean, 500 miles from the Somali coast and about 1,000 miles from the Seychelles. The skipper’s father told French press that that the crew were experienced sailors who knew the risks and were taking what was generally assumed to be the least dangerous route through the northern Indian Ocean. He added that they are penniless, unemployed liveaboards with no means of paying a ransom.

Writing on their internet blog two weeks before the hijacking, Chloe and Florent Lemacon said that they had started sailing with the lights off to avoid detection. ‘We are in the middle of the piracy zone, but so far there is nothing to report.

‘The danger is there and has indeed become greater over the past months, but the ocean is vast. The pirates must not be allowed to destroy our dream,’ they wrote.

The French navy had strongly advisedTanit’s crew against travelling to Kenya and warned them of the serious risk posed by pirates in the waters off the coast of Somalia, an army spokesman said.

‘They met the crew of the surveillance shipFlorealon March 20 and were strongly advised not to pursue the trip to Kenya, even at great distance from the Somali coast, said army spokesman Christophe Prazuck.

An email message was sent toTaniton March 27 stating that sailing to Kenya was ‘very dangerous’ due to a spike in the number of pirate attacks.

France has a history of intervening in pirate hijackings. In September last year France dispatched commandos to release a French couple – friends of Chloe and Florent Lemacon – seized by pirates aboard their yacht. Earlier, in April, a rescue operation was launched to free another French luxury yacht,Le Ponant, and its 30 crew.