Somalian pirates suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of a privately owned superyacht this summer. The captain and crew of the 58-metre Alloy Yachts Red Dragon were on passage to the Med off the coast of Somalia at 49˚ North when a suspicious vessel changed course to shadow them. The craft was still 12½ miles off when the radar showed six fast skiffs breaking away from the main vessel and heading for Red Dragon at speed. The heavily armed pirates came to within 70 metres of the sailing yacht before changing their minds and scurrying back to the mothership without a shot being fired. It appears that the mere sight of Red
Dragon’s crew dressed in flak jackets and armed with their own automatic weapons was enough to deter the attackers.
Red Dragon’s captain Ben Marshall, speaking exclusively to SuperYacht World from the Indian Ocean last month, confirmed the incident, saying: “We drill for this. Without proper preparation it would be suicidal going through these waters.” Four ex-special forces security specialists from Ironside Associates were also on board for the passage from Oman. They mustered the crew on deck, armed them from the yacht’s locked gun cabinet and executed the well-rehearsed show of force. “We’re non-confrontational, but we’ve got to give them something to think about,” Ben says.
Anything less than an armed response is simply not effective, according to New Zealand-based Ben. “Some suggest using hoses, or even LRADs (long-range acoustic devices) that blast them with sound. But the pirates are sitting in a tender with an 80hp outboard at full speed in their ear. You’ve got to get tough. Soft and fluffy doesn’t work with these guys. They’re making €140 million a year – that’s not bad for a Somalian company.”
Since the attack Red Dragon has once again run the gauntlet back through pirate territory on passage to Sri Lanka. “We weren’t bothered, but there were five attacks on commercial ships while we were in the region, and that’s despite the presence of 11 warships in the so-called safe corridor.”
And his latest cause for concern? “We’re heading for a cyclone in Sri Lanka,” says Ben. But after seeing off the pirates that’s unlikely to bother him unduly.