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Veil.  Philippe Poupon’s trimaran attacked by pirates: “They shot at us, there’s a bullet in the mast!”  ” – Veil

Picked up by Philippe Poupon with the aim of taking part in the next Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe, which will depart on November 6, 2022 from Saint-Malo, the trimaran Lakota was on a delivery trip back to France.

This 60-foot trimaran was previously based in the Philippines, from where it left several weeks ago with three crew on board: the owner of the boat, a Filipino sailor who was already working for the previous owner and another skipper.

The objective is to ferry the multihull to the Mediterranean, from where Philippe Poupon has planned to recover it before qualifying for the Route du Rhum

Under the eye of Maurice Uguen, the Navy and the MICA

After leaving Djibouti, where it was forced to make a technical stopover for a week due to a problem with the engine, the crew of the trimaran is sailing this Thursday, May 19, between Eritrea and Yemen. An area known to be very dangerous for acts of piracy, so much so that the men on board have voluntarily chosen not to activate the AIS, a beacon which allows the position, speed and heading of a boat to be known.

Maurice Uguen (left) is a navigator, accomplice and router of Philou Poupon. (Photo DR)

On land, the crew is followed day after day by Maurice Uguen, a navigator, accomplice and router of Philou Poupon for many years, who supervises and coordinates the repatriation of the boat from Aber Wrac’h. “Philou asked me to organize all the logistics around the trimaran, I’m used to this type of expedition and routing too,” he says.

From his house in the Abers, Maurice Uguen therefore follows the progress of the boat, he is in daily contact with the National Navy and the MICA in Brest (Editor’s note: the Maritime Information Cooperation & Awareness Center is the French center of expertise dedicated to maritime security, with worldwide competence) which ensure the security of this maritime area.

“I had contacted the French Navy and MICA well before the boat left the Philippines. With the commander of the Mica unit, frigate captain Eric Chaslin, we had discussed beforehand everything that was possible on a crossing like this. We don’t leave with a boat of this size, of this type in such places like that. Every morning, between 8 and 9 a.m., I have a briefing with the Brest Navy on the boat’s route”.

Kalashnikov and rocket launchers…

This Thursday, May 19, Maurice Uguen has just communicated to the Navy and the MICA the last position of the boat which is along the coast of Yemen: all is well even if the trimaran is, for his taste, a little too is because it came off the rail. An hour later, his phone rings: one of the crew tells him that there is a pirate on board.

Maurice Uguen immediately warns the maritime authorities in Brest, stating that there are two fast boats on each side of the trimaran, that a pirate has climbed onto the trampoline with a Kalashnikov…

“And there, something happens: the wind picks up and the boat picks up speed and suddenly accelerates. The pirates didn’t quite understand what was going on because they weren’t used to seeing boats sailing so fast. Suddenly, they drop the case but another boat, longer and faster than the first, comes back on the trimaran with this time, seven men on board, all equipped with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers… They are more aggressive, are much more threatening”.

A bullet in the mast

It starts shooting, a bullet crosses the mainsail rail and ends its course in the mast. Maurice Uguen saw this attack almost live, hanging on his phone with one of the team members: “There was one online with me, another at the helm and the owner Philippe Brillault who didn’t let it go. Philippe is an emergency doctor, he is used to seeing things that ordinary mortals do not see so he answered the pirates who seemed taken aback because, usually, when they take a boat hostage, the hostages flatten out right now. Clearly, that was not the case.”

Maurice Uguen warns the Navy which immediately hijacks an Italian frigate, the Berganini, which is 300 miles from the area. On this frigate, there is a large platform with a helicopter in position.

“They sent the chopper and when the pirates saw the chopper coming, they stormed off. In addition to the helicopter, there were also the special forces with a huge tire that arrived in the area fairly quickly. They secured the area.”

The trimaran escorted to Djibouti

On board the trimaran, the crew is gradually regaining its senses, but the engine, which has been very busy over the past few hours, no longer responds. To make matters worse, the wind has just dropped completely…

The multihull was then taken under tow under escort by the Italian Navy inflatable up to 20 miles from Djibouti. The three team members were picked up on Friday evening by the Djibouti Coast Guard.

The trimaran must now undergo an inventory, in particular the mast which received an AK-47 bullet. A piece of mainsail track must also be changed, not to mention the engine which is in the curtain. “To cross the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, you absolutely need a motor”, explains Maurice Uguen who did not expect to have his name in the

Washington Post which, the next day, recounts the attack on its website.

Ashore, Philippe Poupon, who, this Thursday, May 19, is on a survival course (Editor’s note: compulsory course for all competitors in the Route du Rhum), followed everything live.

Next month, the 60-foot trimaran must go to Mer Agitée, Michel Desjoyeaux’s shipyard in Port-la-Forêt, to undergo a makeover before the single-handed transatlantic race.

(1): former “Pierre 1er” winner of the Route du Rhum with Florence Arthaud in 1990

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