Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Iran seizes five British sailors...

'Kingdom of Bahrain, Sail Bahrain’s VO60' Sail Bahrai

Facebook - (left to right) Sam Usher, Oliver Smith, Luke Porter and Oliver Young

By Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent and Ed Gorman - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/

Diplomatic tension between Britain and Iran deepened yesterday with the news that Tehran is holding five British sailors after their yacht apparently strayed into Iranian waters.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that the crew members were taken from their yacht Kingdom of Bahrain on November 25 after she was stopped by Iranian naval vessels while sailing from Bahrain to Dubai.

Sources named the five Britons as Oliver Smith, 31, an experienced sailor from Southampton, as well as Sam Usher, Oliver Young, 21, from Saltash in Cornwall, Luke Porter, 21, from Weston-super-Mare and Dave Bloomer, a presenter on Radio Bahrain. Mr Porter is reported to have spoken to his father Charles yesterday.

Charles Porter, 48, said: "He said he was in good spirits and he said he was being well looked after". His son told him the yacht had strayed 500 yards into Iranian waters near the island of Sirri.

The Britons were delivering the yacht to the annual Dubai to Muscat race, a 360-mile voyage through the Straits of Hormuz scheduled to begin the following day.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said that the Foreign Office had been in touch with its Iranian counterparts for nearly a week. “I hope this issue will soon be resolved,” he said. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that it would issue a statement about the affair today.

The seized yacht, a 60ft Volvo, is owned by Sail Bahrain, a personal project of King Hamad of Bahrain to promote his country’s seafaring ancestry. It had only recently arrived from Southampton and was competing in Sail Bahrain’s first offshore race.

Sail Bahrain is backed by Team Pindar, a British yacht-racing team led by the Scarborough businessman Andrew Pindar, whose family owns Britain’s largest independent printers.

Team Pindar said last night: “On November 25, Sail Bahrain’s Kingdom of Bahrain ... racing yacht was stopped by Iranian navy vessels, as it was making its way from Bahrain to the start of the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race.

“The boat may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters. The five crew members, all British nationals, are still in Iran. All are understood to be safe and well and their families have been informed.” - read more @ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6938055.ece?token=null