Famed racing sailboat attacked by gunmen off war-torn Yemen

Officials say that a Hong Kong-flagged sailboat is reported to have come under attack off the coast of war-torn Yemen

Via AP news wire
Friday 20 May 2022 05:40
Yemen
Yemen

A Hong Kong-flagged racing sailboat that led its skippers to win multiple contests around the world came under attack Thursday off the coast of war-torn Yemen, with its crew reportedly targeted by militants who fired warning shots and threatened them with rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

The Lakota, a 62-foot (19-meter) trimaran recently purchased by famed French yachtsman Philippe Poupon, found itself attacked off the coast of Hodeida. The attack began Thursday morning, when three ships carrying militants in civilian clothes chased the vessel, according to a European Union naval force in the region.

The militants fired some 20 warning shots and displayed assault rifles and the rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the EU force said. One assailant boarded the Lakota as well, though he jumped overboard after realizing there was no money on the vessel and that he was far from his comrades' ships, said Capt. Miguel Lorente Navarro, a spokesman for the EU force.

Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, told The Associated Press that the vessel involved was the Lakota. Lloyd's List Intelligence identified the ship as the trimaran, or a three-hulled racing vessel, as did the EU force.

The EU force later released a photo of the trimaran that showed three people aboard the vessel. The EU forces reached the Lakota later Thursday with a helicopter flown off the Italian frigate Carlo Bergamini. The EU force said the crew was safe.

Dryad said that those on board had escaped into international water. Satellite-tracking data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by the AP showed the Lakota just west of the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea between Eritrea on the African continent and Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.

The ship had been docked in Djibouti, tracking data showed. The vessel had not turned on its Automatic Identification System tracker, a safety device that broadcasts a ship's location to protect it from being run into by other vessels.

Dryad described the turned-off tracker as “very strange,” given that the Red Sea is a major international shipping route.

“Several attempts were made to board her,” Dryad said. “Reports indicate she managed to get away.”

Hodeida is a port city long contested between a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who hold Yemen's capital, Sanaa. The Houthis, Yemen’s exiled government and the Saudi-led coalition did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet said it was aware of the attack, but declined to comment further.

The Lakota, formerly the Pierre 1er, won its skippers a number of races. American tycoon and adventurer Steve Fossett once owned the ship.

The Lakota had been listed for sale around 250,000 euros ($263,000) up until earlier this year. In interviews with French sailing media, Poupon said he purchased the vessel and planned to sail it in the solo La Route du Rhum race. He said it would be sailed from the Philippines to the Mediterranean.

Earlier ship tracking data from February show the Lakota leaving the Philippines before appearing in Djibouti this Sunday. It remains unclear who was aboard the ship, which can take five crew.

Poupon, who had recently been on an Antarctic expedition with his family, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The incident marked the latest at-sea attack amid Yemen's war. In January, the Houthis seized the Emirati ship Rwabee. The Houthis described the vessel as carrying military weapons, while the Saudi-led coalition described it as carrying disassembled hospital equipment.

The ship's Indian crew were released last month after the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition reached a truce during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. The fragile truce is still ongoing now.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in