Blue Water Rally made decision before yacht deaths

A round the world sailing rally, due to set off from Gibraltar this October has been cancelled due, in part, to the threat from pirates.

The 2011-2013 Blue Water Rally would have been the company’s ninth global cruise via the Trade Winds route. This route takes in the northern sector of the Indian Ocean into the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

BWR’s decision was taken before the killing of the four kidnapped American yachtsmen at the hands of pirates.

The yachtsmen, skipper Scott Adam, 68, and his wife Jean, from California and their crew Phyllis Mackay, 59, and Bob Riggle, 67, of Seattle were sailing Quest, a 58ft Davidson a pilot house double-headsail cutter, as part of the current BWR round -the-world rally.

But they dropped out of the rally at the crucial moment: just as it was about to cross the Indian Ocean. Adam, described as ‘very independent’ may have become frustrated travelling in convoy, but whatever the reason it was a fateful decision.

The first alert that the Quest might not be alone came from a helicopter flying from a Danish warship which spotted the yacht towing a skiff. This meant only one thing: that pirates had boarded.

Three US warships – the guided missile cruiser USS Sterett, guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley and a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise deployed in the area – then steamed towards the yacht.

Negotiations were taking place between the military and the pirates when gunshots were heard. It seems a row had broken out between the pirates: one theory being examined is that the gunmen were from different warlord clans – there were an incredible 19 pirates on the yacht – and that a ‘surf war’ – as opposed to a turf war – had broken out and two pirates were killed in a rival shoot-out.

Whatever the truth, the stand-off then escalated into a boarding by US Navy Seals who shot one and stabbed another pirate to death. They then made the grim discovery that all four yachtsmen had been attacked. Two were already dead and two more died later.

For the full story on Blue Water Rally’s cancelled world cruise see Yachting Monthly April.

See Dick Durham’s blog.

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