Last week, Gipsy Moth IV came under threat by pirates in the Gulf of Aden 2/3/07

On Monday 12 February, the Gipsy Moth IV came under threat by pirates while sailing through the Gulf of Aden, an area off Yemen, the Horn of Africa notorious for piracy.

Precautions were taken and six Blue Water Rally yachts surrounded the 53ft ketch through the waters.

It was reported that at approximately 9.20am, a small vessel was spotted by two of the rally yachts that had not shown up on radar. As the vessel moved closer the Blue Water Rally yachts adopted a tight formation around the Gipsy Moth IV as it was clear that it was not a fishing party.

With 12 knots of breeze, Gipsy Moth’s sails were well out, and the yacht picked up speed as the wind came over the beam. Gipsy Moth IV skipper John Jeffrey continues: “The intruders were a few hundred yards ahead of us on the other side of the ‘box’. I was just making the formation tighter, and there was no question of behaving aggressively; but I’m sure our behaviour looked assertive, to say the least.”

The strangers then immediately broke off their approach and turned to sail behind the Blue Water Rally yachts. Then soon after another larger boat appeared and joined the first boat and they continued to shadow the now tightly packed formation, only a mile or so behind.

The imminent threat led the first Blue Water Rally yacht to broadcast a security message on VHF Channel 16.

Within a few minutes, by coincidence, a friendly warship appeared ahead and hailed the formation to ask for more details of the encouncer. Soon after the trailing boats faded from sight.

A fast patrol craft then approached the formation full of armed men who had come across from the warship to hear the leader’s report first hand.

The entire incident lasted only half an hour.

Piracy in these waters has a long tradition according to the Yacht-Piraterie (information centre for piracy) as many years ago pirates from Yemen made their living by attacking Arabian dhaus, later European merchant ships. Nowadays they concentrate on small cargo boats and yachts attacking them with two or three small open boats with strong engines. These pirates are not interested in ransom, they want cash, jewellery, electrical equipment. Often the raid is organized ashore.

On 8 March 2005, Americans Rodney J. Nowlin and Jay Berry on their boat Mahdi and Gandalf were attacked by pirates south of Al Mukalla.

It is believed that the most dangerous area for piracy extends from the Gulf of Aden to the North of Bab-el-Mandeb and up to the Hanesh Islands. Boats are recommended to keep a safety distance of 30 nautical miles.