Here starts the convoy. This is a formation devised by Lo Brust, the rally organiser, to safeguard the boats as we began our journey through ‘Pirate Alley’ Although still in ‘safe’ waters Lo wanted us to get used to the formation as it was difficult to sustain, as we were to find out.

Lo led three groups of boats, one group half a mile to his port quarter (behind on the left), one to his starboard quarter (behind on the right) and the third group a mile directly behind his stern. As we progressed to more dangerous waters the group closed in, and at night it moved out.

Francesca and Marco on 'Easy And Free'

Each group was lead by a boat armed with an AIS transceiver and a flashing light mounted at the back of the boat. Each light was a unique colour, making each lead boat more identifiable at night. The AIS enabled Lo to monitor the lead boat of each group (and vice versa) as this technology allows one to measure distances and bearings between vessels carrying said equipment.

Sadly the group ‘leaders’ were elected by default as only four boats in the rally had AIS transceivers, one of which was Esper. I can tell you now that given the choice I would have ditched the AIS overboard in order to relinquish any responsibility that we inherited as a group leader. If there was one fault with Lo’s strategy it was that he had not prepared us for this responsibility, a responsibility we had no desire to take on and one that we certainly had not signed up to the rally for. If I can be arsed I will write more about this later but the mere thought of the following two weeks of convoy brings on flashing lights and a sick feeling in my stomach. All you need to know for now is that the lead boats had a hard time maintaining a straight course whilst following Lo, and the following boats had a hard time maintaining a straight course whilst following the lead boats. Everyone thought they did it best and everyone thought everyone else was crap. There was a lot of blaming and bitching and after over 500 miles of it each and every rally participant was knackered and sick of the sight of each other!

The first part of the convoy’s progress was hampered by ‘Cobble’ who blew something big and important in his engine and had to be towed by ‘Anthea’ 210 miles, all the way to Aden in Yemen! After 100 miles of towing into head winds and choppy seas ‘Anthea’ needed a break, which is why we anchored on the boarder to Djibouti in another ‘restricted area’.

'Cobble' under full sail, not being towed

You can guess who woke us up early next morning requesting us to leave immediately!

How a convoy should look according to AIS. They probably have a military escort to be fair!

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