Chandlers’ relatives ‘keeping fingers crossed’

Relatives of the British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, who are believed to have been kidnapped by Somalian pirates, are ‘not grossly overworried’ according to a BBC report. Stephen Collett, Rachel Chandler’s brother, says he’s had no confirmation that they have been kidnapped despite claims made to Reuters made by someone called Hassan that ‘The British couple are in our hands now.’ Reuters’ source added that the couple was healthy and that ransom demands would follow.

‘The last we heard was a vessel had been sighted being towed by two skiffs,’ said Collett, referring to reports that a yacht similar to the Chandlers’ had been spotted at 1500 GMT on Tuesday 200 miles off the Somali coast and on course for Haradheere, the pirate stronghold in Somalia. ‘There’s no evidence that it’s the vessel. It may be they’re still sailing across the Indian Ocean,’ Collett added. ‘We’re not grossly overworried at the moment – we’re just keeping our fingers crossed.’

Their composure is based on a statement from Cdr John Harbour, spokesman for European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR), who spotted the vessel during a patrol flight. Cdr Harbour said yesterday ‘We are monitoring the situation. This yacht is not confirmed as being the one we’re after.’

Huge ransom demand expected

The Chandlers are members of the Cruising Association, and were at the Association’s Limehouse base in August planning their voyage. A report on piracy in September’s issue of the Cruising Association magazine reports that the average period of detention is six months and that the going rate for ransom is £1m per person. Exactly who pays and how has never been published.

‘They haven’t got wealth,’ said Jill Marshment, Paul Chandler’s sister. ‘They’re just an ordinary couple enjoying early retirement. All their money is literally sunk into that boat as far as I know.’ A well equipped Rival 38 like Lynn Rival, the Chandlers’ yacht, would be worth in the region of £80,000.

Lynn Rival, right, in the Seychelles

Paul Chandler, 58, and his wife Rachel, 55, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, were on passage from Port Victoria in the Seychelles to the Amirante Islands, en route for Tanzania, 825 miles west. At 0133GMT on Friday 23 October, Falmouth MRCC reported receiving an alert from their EPIRB and they informed EU NAVFOR.

Meteorological reports suggest that, although there may have been a reasonable sea running, adverse conditions were unlikely to have caused the Chandlers to activate their EPIRB. It is known however that pirate activity around the Seychelles has increased considerably.

Seychelles ‘no longer safe’

A report on posted in May this year confirmed that attacks on yachts had taken place. ‘The situation has seriously deteriorated in the Seychelles archipelago during the last three weeks. According to the EU coordination, the Seychelles are surrounded, Somali motherships are positioned North, South, East and West. There is no longer any 100 per cent safe exit/entry route.’

It is believed that the pirates are venturing much further afield because marine traffic has rerouted to avoid capture. Pirate skiffs were reported in the area at the time the Chandlers triggered their EPIRB. The day before there were reports of a foiled attack on a merchant vessel. It is possible that the pirates would have changed targets because motherships abandon skiffs so that they have to kidnap a vessel to get back to Somalia. 

A report on their blog posted while Lynn Rival was still in Port Victoria said ‘We’ll be at sea for 8 to 12 days, maybe 14 as we are now getting into the period of transition between the south monsoon and north monsoon, so the trade winds will be less reliable and we may get more light winds.  We probably won’t have satellite phone coverage until we’re fairly close to the African coast, so we may be out of touch for some time.’ The final posting simply reads ‘PLEASE RING SARAH.’

here to visit Paul and Rachel Chandler’s blog