Pirate threat on next stage of yacht race

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital leaves Australia's Gold Coast
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital leaves Australia's Gold Coast
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They have already battled the mighty Southern Ocean, crossed the equator twice, and travelled under sail to the other side of the world.

Now the crew of the Capital’s entry in the Clipper Round the World yacht race has been warned to be on the look-out for pirates on the latest leg of their 40,000-mile journey, from Australia’s Gold Coast to Singapore.

Race organisers, including race founder, yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, have announced special precautions to try to keep the sailors safe as they pass through the Celebes and Sulu Seas between Malaysia and the Philippines.

Race director, Joff Bailey, said the organising committee had chosen the safest of several possible routes for the ten-strong fleet to take: “After significant research and discussion with regional Navy forces and the Pirate Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur the route has been selected.

“North of Papua New Guinea and through the Celebes and Sulu Seas is considered the least risky of all the options. That said, it is not without its risks as we have seen with the cyclones two weeks ago, but they are low and risk mitigating actions are being taken.

“The piracy in this part of the world should in no way be linked to the piracy that you hear of on the TV near Somalia which is on an almost industrial scale. The risk on the Clipper Race route can be better described as a mugging at sea, but it is still a risk that we take seriously.”

Since the race begin in July, the stripped-down 68ft racing yachts have been sending back location data via satellite so that supporters can track their progress at the website www.clipperroundtheworld.com, though they are allowed to hide their position for one 24-hour period during each leg – a tactic known as “stealth mode”.

Mr Bailey said racing would be suspended temporarily while the yachts crossed the areas of greatest risk, and added: “The first action that we will be taking is that once the teams enter the Celebes Sea they will go into stealth mode for approximately four days whilst they cross the area of risk. This will prevent any clever pirate from looking at the website and following the boats.

“The race team will still be tracking the yachts every hour and will put information in the daily report and on the website.

On board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, however, the recent preoccupation has been with a lack of wind. Skipper Gordon Reid said: “Stuck in a windless hole, baking under the tropical sun, sweating like a blood donor at a vampire’s tea party, being drenched in a tropical downpour for the fifth time in four hours – we always remember what a great adventure we are undertaking.”

Despite the light winds, he said the crew – currently 12-strong – has been working hard to continually raise and lower the most appropriate sails for the changing conditions.

He said: “We are now moving and in the right direction, a true testament to the skill and determination of the crew.”

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is currently at the back of the fleet, with 2027 nautical miles to cover.