Florence Artaud's former boat attacked in the Red Sea near Yemen

(B2) It was 7:46 a.m., Thursday (May 19), when the Brest maritime security center (MSCHOA) of the maritime anti-piracy operation received an alert. A sailing trimaran, the Lakota, flag of Hong Kong, is the object of an attack by pirates.

Bergamini sailors docking the Lakota sailboat at night (Photo: EUNAVFOR Atalanta)

Off the coast of Yemen

The boat SV Lakota is then in the south of the Red Sea, near the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, southeast of the port of Hodeidah. He comes from the Philippines, heading for France, via Djibouti, but he chose to sail close to the coast " due to navigation risks ". An error no doubt, due to GPS failure “, will later specify a press release from Atalanta, wanting to be conciliatory. " Three small ships with five people on board », rush towards him (1). They shoot " twenty warning shots “says a military source. There is no doubt of their non-peaceful intent. To show their determination, they show rocket launchers and assault rifles ". One of the assailants even tries to board the ship and managed to get a foothold there for a moment.

The alert shudders on Mercury

Very quickly, the European anti-piracy operation EUNAVFOR Atalanta shared its information, via its Mercury information platform, with all the maritime actors concerned in the area, in particular with the British, well known to sailors, the UKMTO (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations). An old traveling companion of all merchant navies, like Operation Atalanta.

ITS Bergamini warms up the engines

The Italian frigate ITS Bergamini, which is patrolling off Djibouti, puts “all engines” to get closer to the scene of the incident. The on-board helicopter takes off, making it possible to very quickly locate the sailboat and possibly provide initial assistance to the crew. In the meantime, the sailboat managed to escape its pursuers, thanks to avoidance measures (acceleration, zigzag, etc.). The helicopter approach has another advantage: it allows you to collect evidence.

The approach of the helicopter

The SV Lakota crew provides Atalanta teammates with a video of the attack. This video is going to be now being analyzed by Atalanta and the findings will be shared with our partners involved in maritime security in the region ”, indicates the operation. Clearly, if it is not possible to clearly identify the attackers, we can at least know more about their attack methods, their origin, or even cross them with the Atalanta database. Arrived on site, the Italian frigate took charge of the ship, escorting it to Djibouti, its port of departure, " until the Djiboutian coast guard took over in front of the port of Obock “, specifies the operation in a press release sent to B2.

A legendary boat !

If the Lakota means nothing to most of us, remember his first name was Peter I, the legendary vessel with which Florence Arthaud won the 1990 Route du Rhum and thus became the first woman to win a major-level regatta. Sold and renamed Lakota in 1993, she finished 5th in the 1994 Route du Rhum, with her new owner and skipper, the American Steve Fossett. It then passed into other hands, winning several races in the process, before being put up for sale (see the site of Bernard Gallay) and bought by Philippe Poupon, to participate in the next Route du Rhum Guadeloupe. (Departure from Saint Malo on November 6, 2002). Three people on board, the owner of the ship, a Filipino sailor and another skipper, as our colleagues from Sea and Marine.

SV Lakota in the Red Sea (Photo: EUNAVFOR Atalanta)

NB: The final classification of the incident (act of piracy, attempted attack or other) has not yet been finalized. Various facts are still to be clarified, the circumstances not being completely clear yet. They will be provided by the operation in the threat bulletin published by the maritime industry.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. The number remains unclear. There was " at least two small vessels “, we will specify later

Read also: A certain imprudence!

Updated May 25 with details of attack, escort

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).