The crew of Turanor PlanetSolar, the largest solar-powered yacht on the planet and aiming to be the first to complete a circumnavigation, now break their radio silence to give the story of their trepidatious journey through the Gulf of Aden. Here, Raphaël Domjan, co-founder and expedition leader, tells the story of their preparations, their training, their security force on board, their confrontation with suspected pirates and their safe journey into the Red Sea:
Already a month ago, we were writing our last blog post before crossing the Gulf of Aden in order to reach Africa and the Red Sea. Since 2006, we were aware that we would have to sail through the Gulf of Aden if we were to successfully achieve our journey around the world. We were hoping that the situation would settle down, but quite the contrary happened: the area became more dangerous almost everywhere west of the Indian Ocean.
To ensure our safety, we sought the help of Christophe Keckeis, former chief of the Swiss Army. In collaboration with Gérard d’Aboville, the captains of the PlanetSolar and myself have designed a security concept enabling us to cross this dangerous area in the best possible conditions for our security.
We have selected and mandated a private security firm employing exclusively former soldiers and elite forces from the French Army. Hence, 6 men trained and used to that kind of missions joined us on board in Abu Dhabi.
First, we had to make the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar almost impossible to access. We installed barbed wire at the sensitive areas, notably on the struts and on the back marina. PlanetSolar actually transformed into a bunker … After official ‘good bye’ with the team of the Swiss embassy in Abu Dhabi and its ambassador, Wolfgang Bruehlart, we discreetly left the Emirate Palace Marina for Djibouti. The start of a long navigation that would last 1800 nautical miles without stop.
For the complete story, go to www.sail-world.com.