Yacht found safe after searchers fear pirate attack

SY Dandelion - fears she had been hijacked by pirates, but it was just ’technical problems’
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Piracy nervousness is rife in the western Indian Ocean. When Dandelion, a 47ft Leopard catamaran with seven on board sailing between the island Mayotte in the Indian Ocean and Pemba in northern Mozambique, hadn't been heard from for several days, families and rescue authorities quickly feared that they had been 'sea-jacked' by pirates. A major search was launched. On board were British, German, American, South African and Dutch crew and all the authorities had been notified.

South Africa's Times newspaper reported that the search for the yacht, which had set sail on April 10 and hadn't been heard from since, was being aided by an EU anti-piracy plane scrambled from Djibouti on Sunday.

All ships in the vicinity of Mozambique had also been warned to be on the lookout for pirate activity.

The captain of the yacht is John Sergel, a South African from Durban, and his co-skipper is Izabella Moallic, a French citizen.

Also on the cruise were Gianvieve Mancuso, an American, and her German husband Alexander Weyhe, British passport holder Jason Morenikeji, South African Frank Joubert and Dutch citizen Jasper van Straaten.

The owner of the yacht, Roger Hartley, told Beeld newspaper that because of the different nationalities of the passengers, authorities from all the involved countries had been drawn into the search.

However, little more than 24 hours after a major search and rescue operation had been put in place, the yacht has been located (Monday) with all on board safe and well.

A spokesman for the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre on the island of Reunion said the yacht had suffered technical problems and was now motoring slowly towards Pemba.

He said: 'The Dandelion was spotted this morning by an air force plane. 'The pilots made contact with it and the captain informed them that all on board remained well.

'It is now around 20 nautical miles from Pemba and is making its way slowly towards the port.'

Officials said it was believed the catamaran had suffered a motor breakdown in the ocean and had been left without communication.

It was due to arrive in Pemba later today or tomorrow.

Officials have warned in recent months about the increased threat posed by pirates in the Mozambican Channel.