Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

Released yachtsmen back in UK after Iran detention

The yachtsmen arrive back at Heathrow airport

Four British yachtsmen who were seized by Iran have returned to the UK following their release from custody.

They had been sailing from Bahrain to Dubai last month to take part in a race when they drifted into Iranian waters.

Speaking at Heathrow, skipper Oliver Smith thanked all those who had supported them as they were held for a week, adding: "It's great to be home."

Andrew Pindar, the boat's owner, said the crew was "full of emotion" but had a "high degree of embarrassment".

Mr Smith, 31, said all the crew, apart from him as he was at the helm, had been blindfolded while at sea after being detained by the Revolutionary Guard on 25 November.

Along with Mr Smith, from Southampton, Luke Porter, 21, from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, Oliver Young, 21, from Saltash, Cornwall, and Sam Usher, 26, from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, arrived at Heathrow on Friday morning.

They had been held alongside Bahrain-based David Bloomer, who is believed to be in his 60s.

'No animosity'

Mr Smith said he wanted to give "a massive thank you to everyone who has helped us out".

He told reporters that he and his fellow captives had been well treated after they were seized, but the worst part of the ordeal had been the "lack of information - we didn't know what was going on".

He added: "Initially, when we first got stopped, it was not very nice to be blindfolded and taken back to be questioned.

Luke and Beverley Porter
My mum has been putting on a bit of a brave face
Luke Porter

"As time went by, the guys treated us very well. There was no animosity at all.

"I guess they just had a job to do, and it was coming from higher up."

Mr Porter said he would "probably head to the pub" once he returned home.

"I'm just thankful to be back," he added.

"I'm looking forward to seeing my mum and dad. My mum has been putting on a bit of a brave face."

Mr Young said: "We had a bit of a shocker really. We are sorry for everything we've put our families through, and thanks to everyone."

Mr Pindar said the group had been more concerned for their loved ones than themselves.

He added: "They're embarrassed that they've created a problem for other people. The first thing they said was 'Sorry for giving people grey hairs'."

But Mr Pindar said they would not be deterred from taking part in future expeditions.

He went on: "Something went wrong, but it doesn't stop you going back.

"These guys want to sail the ocean - they're all professional sailors with ambitions to take part in other ocean races."

'Lightning fast'

Iran's official IRNA news agency said on Wednesday that the men had been released after an interrogation by authorities had established their yacht had entered Iranian waters accidentally.

A statement by Iran's Revolutionary Guard said: "After carrying out an investigation and interrogation of the five British sailors, it became clear that their illegal entry was a mistake.

"After obtaining necessary guarantees, it was decided to release them."

The five men were detained after the Revolutionary Guard stopped their Volvo 60 yacht - The Kingdom of Bahrain - in the Gulf on 25 November.

The Team Pindar-backed yacht was sailing from Bahrain to Dubai to take part in the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Race.

The race began on 26 November and ended two days later in the Omani capital's Bandar Al-Rawdah marina.

Map of the Gulf

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