UK sailors held by Iran return to Britain

LONDON — A group of yachtsmen held briefly by Iran after their boat crossed into Iranian waters returned to Britain today.

Smiling and looking relaxed, Oliver Smith, Oliver Young, Sam Usher and Luke Porter arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport after a six-hour flight from Dubai. A fifth man, David Bloomer, a Bahrain-based radio journalist, did not join the men on their return flight.

Asked what he planned now that he was home, Porter said, “Probably go to the pub.”

The men’s boat, the Kingdom of Bahrain, had been heading to join the 360-mile Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race when it drifted into Iranian waters and was seized by the elite Revolutionary Guard’s navy on Nov. 25.

News of the men’s capture — soon after a defiant announcement from Iran that it was boosting its uranium enrichment work — briefly raised the prospect of a tense standoff between London and Tehran. The price of oil spiked as British diplomats scrambled for clarity on where and under what circumstances the men were being held.

Smith said the crew members initially were blindfolded by their captors, but “as time went by, the guys treated us very well. There was no animosity at all.”

Speaking at Heathrow as the sailors arrived, the chairman of group running the boat, Andrew Pindar, said the sailors were very embarrassed by the whole incident.

“The first thing they said was ‘sorry for giving people gray hairs,’” he said.

Still, Smith said, the sailors can’t wait to get back into a boat and go back to the Persian Gulf.

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