Plymouth man being held by Iran with yacht crew
A PLYMOUTH man is being held in Iran with four others after the yacht he was on allegedly strayed into the country's waters.
Oliver Young 21, better known as Olly, is one of five Britons being held after being captured by the Iranan navy while sailing from Bahrain to Dubai.
Also among the five is 31-year-old Oli Smith, who studied at the University of Plymouth.
Both have sailed with Plymouth's Conrad Humphreys.
The Foreign Office has confirmed the five are being held, and confirmed the yacht may have strayed into Iranian waters on November 25.
The Foreign Office said it was looking into reports from Iran that "serious" action would be taken against the five if they were found to have had "evil intentions".
Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s head of staff, told the country’s Fars news agency: “Judiciary will decide about the five ... naturally our measures will be hard and serious if we find out they had evil intentions."
Mr Young is the son of Plymouth businessman David Young.
He said: "We don’t really know anything more. We found out last Thursday.
He said: “He’s travelled a fair bit he’s got quite a bit of experience under his belt. They’ll be coping with it fine out there. We understand they are being well looked after.
“He’s been doing this since he’s 18. He’ll be fine, I’ve got no doubt about that. He’s with a very good friend of his and two crew members. They’ve been out there on this project for a number of weeks now. I’m sure they are absolutelly fine. We hope to see them very soon.
“We’re confident this will be resolved very quickly. We’re all concerned and the sooner they are released the better. It is dragging along longer than we thought it would do.
“It’s just a worry that there are diplomatic stresses at the moment. They are under international pressure. We just hope they’re not used as a bargaining chip.
“The Foreign Office are doing their best and we’re hopeful of news any day soon.”
Mr Young's mother, Susan, said she was confident that her son would cope well with the pressure of the situation.
Mrs Young, of Saltash, said: “He will be absolutely fine. He is a very strong person, he will be coping with this fine.
“The team get on really well, they are a really nice group of lads and I am not worried about their morale or anything like that.
“As a mother I do feel worried but who wouldn’t be? We are just hopeful that it will all come to an end very soon.”
She said Oliver was one of four brothers and had always been interested in sailing.
She said: “It’s a complete passion for him and this will never put him off, he will be fine.”
The yacht, Kingdom of Bahrain, part of the sailing company Team Pindar, was on its way to take part in a 360 mile race from Dubai to Muscat. The others being held are Sam Usher, Luke Porter and David Bloomer.
A statement issued by Team Pindar reads: "On November 25, Sail Bahrain's Kingdom of Bahrain Volvo 60 racing yacht was stopped by Iranian navy vessels, as it was making its way from Bahrain to the start of the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race.
"The boat may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters.
"The five crew members, all British nationals, are still in Iran.
"All are understood to be safe and well and their families have been informed."
Conrad Humphreys has had both Oliver Young and Oliver Smith working for his team in Plymouth. He said: “They’re both pretty streetwise, very bright individuals.”
Of Oliver Young he said: “Olly worked for me on and off. He worked with me on the catamaran I had down here. I kind of gave him his first start out of school.”
He said Oliver Smith, who is thought to be from Southampton, had worked on boats in Plymouth for about a year before joining Mr Humphreys’ team.
He is believed to have completed a degree in ocean science and marine navigation at the University of Plymouth and sailed on the University Mens' 1st Team.
Mr Humphreys described him as “a very solid guy. A good sailor. A tough young guy. Pretty skilled with the boat”.
The Foreign Ofice has contacted Iran's foreign ministry and the Iranian embassy, as well as speaking to the families of all those involved.
It is not known where Mr Young and the rest of the crew are being held.
Dave Young is the commercial director of Plymouth tyre recycling firm Crumb Rubber.
Mr Young set up the business with Ian and Derek Brooking in 2004 and it became operational by 2007.
The firm employs 14 people at its Estover plant, which is capable of producing 20,000 tonnes of rubber powders a year.
Oli Smith is an experienced sailor. He completed a degree in ocean science and marine navigation at the University of Plymouth while sailing with the university men’s first team.
He then spent six months skippering a 50ft survey yacht and doing delivery work in South America and the Caribbean.
He was part of a team which came third in the Racing Division of the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), and in 2003 went on to work for Pure Sailing as the boat captain and skipper for a Volvo 60 raceboat.
Foreign Secretary David Milliband said today he hoped the issue would be resolved soon.
He said: "FCO officials immediately contacted the Iranian authorities in London and in Tehran on the evening of 25 November, both to seek clarification and to try and resolve the matter swiftly.
"Our ambassador in Tehran has raised the issue with the Iranian foreign ministry and we have discussed the matter with the Iranian embassy in London," he said.
The race started on November 26 and ended two days later.
Up-and-coming yachtswoman Hannah White said she believed the British sailors detained in Iran would be handling the pressure well.
She said she knew Oliver Smith and Oliver Young very well, having sailed and worked with both in the past.
She said Mr Smith was the skipper of the yacht seized by the Iranians and she had worked with him previously for Team Pindar in the Vendee Globe yachting race.
She said: “He’s a very calm, sensible young man. I am sure he will be dealing with the situation as best as he can.
“He is a very good sailor and I am sure he has done everything he can to ensure the safety of boat and crew.
“Sail Bahrain is a relatively new venture but Ollie has been working for the organisation, Team Pindar, for several years.”
Miss White, of Lymington, Hampshire, said she had sailed with Mr Young during his training with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) youth scheme.
She said: “He is a very good, talented sailor.
“It must be pretty tough for him because he is young but these guys are sailors because they are good with coping with difficult situations.
“It is a difficult situation but I have no doubt they will be dealing with it calmly, clearly and efficiently.”
She said that such a diplomatic incident was unexpected for international sailors but added that yachting crews were prepared for any eventuality.
She said: “I do not think any of us think this is going to happen but it’s as likely as losing a mast – it’s a risk you take in our job.”
In March 2007 15 Plymouth Royal Navy sailors were arrested by Iran after allegedly straying into the country's waters, and were held for two weeks.
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