Five British amateur yachtsmen detained by Iran for almost a week described on Wednesday how their vessel had been stopped by fast patrol boats and boarded by armed soldiers who blindfolded them, the Times of London reported.
After making a joyful landing in Dubai following their release, they said that their stricken yacht, which they were sailing from Bahrain to Dubai, had strayed into Iranian territorial waters in the Gulf and was approached by two fast boats manned by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.
After initially being cleared following a document check, Captain Oliver Smith said their yacht, the Kingdom of Bahrain, had been boarded a second time and made to divert to the Iranian island of Sirri.
“After deliberating, they got back on board asked us to turn around and head back towards the island with two of their guys on board. They sat our guys at the back of the boat and blindfolded them but left me unblindfolded [to steer the boat],” he said.
After further checks, they were told they could leave, only for the yacht to be turned around again and the crew told that there was an unspecified problem. They were then locked together in a padlocked room, the paper reported.
“We were taken to the base blindfolded, and taken into a room where they took the blindfolds off. It was reasonable, one of their mess rooms,” he said.
“It was pretty tense at first. There were plenty of moments when we were very concerned about what was going to happen. The main issue was no information.”
Smith acknowledged that the yacht, which was on its way to a regatta but was stricken by a damaged propeller, had strayed into Iranian territory.
“It was our mistake to end up there. It wasn’t clearly marked on our chart but we had no intention of upsetting anyone.”
He said the atmosphere between the yachtsmen and their captors lightened after a couple of days, that they were given a chessboard and darts to pass the time, and that they had been generally well treated. He said that, during their final period captive on the island, the door of the room in which they were held had been unlocked during their evening meal.
The men were eventually told they could leave this morning. Smith said: “There was a knock on the door this morning. We were already thinking they were a little late bringing breakfast. And they opened the door and said you’re free to go.”
After being towed by the Iranians into international waters their boat, Kingdom of Bahrain, was escorted to Dubai by a yacht sent out from a local sailing club.