Routeing tactics avoid 'opportunist' pirate attacks

The Blue Water Round the World Cruising Rally has safely transited through the Gulf of Aden by following specific anti-piracy routeing procedures. The fleet sailed in small groups within visual range and kept HF transmissions to a minimum and VHF chat on low power. Waypoint details were known only to participants, UK Rally Control and other authorities, to whom positions were passed daily.

The routeing procedure ensured that the fleet sailed/motor-sailed well beyond visual range of the Yemen and Somali coasts, thus minimising the risk of being spotted by opportunist pirates.

Overall the risk of piracy in the Gulf of Aden is much lower than at any time for several years except, perhaps, for coastal areas. There is now a four nation task force from France, Italy, Germany and Spain operating in an anti-piracy role in the Gulf, which was extremely comforting to the Rally.

Rally yachts set off from the Maldives at different times, but were expected to rendezvous at a waypoint position in mid-ocean. Mike Priest, the skipper of Dutch Link commented to UK Rally Control, “All Blue Water Rally yachts passed the RV at the appointed hour today – quite a sight as out of the blue, after 1000 miles of ocean, the whole fleet suddenly appeared within a mile or so of each other! ”

At this stage Whistler had contacted Rally Control in UK to advise that one of his lower shrouds had failed and he was sailing under reduced sail and a jury rig. An exchange of e-mails then took place between Whistler and Rally Control to order two new lower shrouds for delivery by hand to Djibouti.

Within a couple of days Totem was in trouble with an over-heating main engine. This was diagnosed as a broken impeller, parts of which had blocked the heat exchanger. A rendezvous was arranged and Mike Dawes, the skipper of Jade Woman, was ferried across to Totem to effect repairs. James Godwin stayed on board Totem through the next night to ensure that all was working well and in case of any further problems.