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The Phoenix Pirates were strong enough to be able to sail through the first half of the Grand Line but their journey ultimately came to a stop when they went to the New World and the first mate of the crew Vigaro was killed, forcing the crew to retreat back to Paradise.
The ship the Phoenix Pirates was first found by the Straw Hats in Episode 326. It has a red phoenix for a figurehead. Due to the ship's initial sail less appearance, Franky thought that the pirates were probably victims of a Davy Back Fight. Its sail and the Phoenix Pirates' Jolly Roger were actually taken by Brindo.
They were former pirates, who were deprived of their flag by the Accino Family and were forced by them to become their soldiers. While in the New World, they were defeated by a powerful adversary and the Phoenix Pirates Vice-Captain Vigaro died to protect his crew. With the help of the Straw Hats they got their flag back and continued sailing.