TRANSGLOBE: Disco blog sums it up with reflections thus far & 2000nm to go

There are many quotable quotes in here from Dusty Miller on board Discoverer.

Here’s one to kick-start proceedings:

What matters most is that we all get to Fremantle (and ultimately Gosport) safely and do so in the spirit and manner of single-Service and tri-Service teamwork envisaged by the architects of Exercise Transglobe.  So far, we are scoring exceptionally well in that area.

DISCO BLOG Tuesday 27 October 2009

Dusty Miller RAF

Dusty the Disco blogger ...and a mighty fine one he is at that!

I thought you might appreciate a slightly more straight-laced blog to mark the occasion of our passing the mid-point of our great adventure – normal service (scatty typing) will be resumed as soon as possible, I promise.  Please forgive me if I end up repeating snippets from recent blogs.

There is an almighty sense of achievement aboard as well as a slight sense of relief that we are at long last climbing slowly out of the Southern Ocean and into the warmer climes of the 2000 or so miles still to run towards Australia.  The first week out of Cape Town seemed to deliver little progress while we battled to round the Agulhas Bank, and many of us were pleased to see Africa disappear in the metaphorical rear-view mirror.  There then followed a period of chasing the wind, wishing for more wind then almost immediately wishing we had not done so, and again the milestones crept past very slowly.  Now, having passed the nadir of the great circle route in the previous 24 hours, the wind has filled-in behind us and Disco is racing towards our destination potentially as little as 15 days ahead.

Adventure and Challenger have occupied a similar patch of this vast ocean to Disco throughout the trip so far albeit they had a little more luck with their weather decisions in the early weeks.  The downside of being ahead was that they were the first to experience the dramatically horrible weather I described as a ‘bomb’ just over a week ago and we, hanging tactically in third place, were able to configure ourselves for the onslaught and just felt a little ruffled round the edges in the winds that touched Force 10, and literally huge seas.  In the past couple of days, Disco has started to close the gap with our sister yachts by again taking a slightly different tactical approach to the wind and weather.  Does any of this really this matter?  I think we would all like to be aboard the first yacht to cross the finish line at Fremantle but, and quoting one of the skippers during a week-one radio conversation, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and this applies to the year-long exercise just as much as it does to our own Leg 4.  What matters most is that we all get to Fremantle (and ultimately Gosport) safely and do so in the spirit and manner of single-Service and tri-Service teamwork envisaged by the architects of Exercise Transglobe.  So far, we are scoring exceptionally well in that area.

We have all had our share of technical problems even though the 3 yachts were very well prepared both from the outset in the UK and at each staging point along the way.  Such is the nature of sailing the open oceans – even the most rugged installations are exposed to continual vibration, enormous physical stresses, salt water ingress including immersion, and downright pounding, so we should not be surprised when odds and ends decide to give up the ghost and stop playing.  Read any contemporary tale of ocean sailing or racing, the Vendee Globe being a good example, and you will read of exceptionally well prepared yachts suffering all manner of breakdown just days out from their home port let alone in the depths of the Southern Ocean.  Disco’s troubles have included the water maker which, to put it crudely, takes in sea water and squeezes it at very high pressure through a filter to provide potable drinking water.  Ours stopped working and in an instant both Adventure and Challenger independently volunteered to sacrifice their lead in order to provide us with water.

Adventure has had trouble with her Satcom so Disco has been providing the daily weather update to all 3 yachts.  Finally, when Challenger was roughed up by the weather bomb, tremendous moral support was given between the 3 skippers in their daily HF calls while Challenger made good the damage to her sails.  If you could distil, bottle and sell the sense of teams working within teams, you would be rich beyond the wildest dreams of man.


While writing this we have received a distress message from the Australian Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) telling us that a satellite has observed Adventure’s emergency beacon indicating that she is in distress.  We immediately altered course towards the position of her beacon and informed the RCC that we were doing so.  Meanwhile we used all means available in an attempt to contact Adventure but to no avail.  Just over an hour later we were called by Gosport to tell us that Adventure had been knocked down by a big wave but was still in business and all aboard were fit and well.  The wave had carried away her emergency beacon, or EPIRB, which started to transmit automatically, as well as her HF mast and other assorted communications aerials.  I should imagine her crew were well shaken, as indeed we were wondering if our colleagues really were in distress.  This sort of event serves to emphasise the gravity of this undertaking.

So what do the individual crew members think of things so far?  For me, my ambition was to enjoy the next 30 years as much as I enjoyed the 40+ years of my career in the Royal Air Force, and so far it has made a very good start (although it seems to be taking rather a long time to get to the Isle of Wight).

Andy Fernie, our Skipper who is a seasoned Southern Ocean sailor, is enjoying the challenge of leading and managing Disco’s other 13 crewmembers and is finding it highly rewarding and at times quite entertaining.  He is massively impressed by the manner in which the Watches have attacked – and he uses the word ‘attacked’ quite deliberately – the catering regardless of the conditions beyond the confines of the galley and have produced consistently outstanding food.

Neil Cottrell (1st Mate for Leg 4) is the man who conceived the idea of Exercise Transglobe in the first place and, as the Project Officer, remains responsible for carrying it to its conclusion in arriving back at Gosport next Summer.  For a man with such an awesome responsibility on his shoulders, he is overjoyed with progress so far, in miles travelled as well as objectives achieved, and here I refer to the underpinning nature of teamwork and personal development enshrined in adventurous training.  Neil’s 53rd birthday was celebrated yesterday, the high point being as the sun went down over his right shoulder while he helmed Disco at over 11 knots in a fresh north-westerly breeze, the crew meanwhile preparing to sing Happy Birthday to him over a cake made aboard today.  It does not get better than this.

Owen, who has been in the Royal Air Force for a little over one year, is finding the whole experience quite breathtaking.  Life aboard, mixing with a range of widely different ages ranks and background, and a substantially different diet, has proved to be challenging, but Owen has tackled it on his own terms and will emerge ‘leaner and meaner’ for it.  After 3 weeks at sea, and in gruelling conditions at times for a novice, Owen says that opportunities are there for the taking, even as a relatively junior airman, and he sincerely recommends that you ‘just go for it’.

Sally-Ann, the Southern Ocean has learned a thing or 2 from Sally-Ann, and she has demonstrated significant generosity of spirit by sharing pudding recipes over the HF link with our sister yachts.

Buzz is pleased that, following the meagre progress of the first week or so, we now seem to be eating up the miles to go to the Fremantle Yacht Club.  “There is light at the end of the tunnel”.

Al was hoping to lose weight and get ‘stacked’ for Australia! However the food has just been too good and too plentiful at times and he may be in danger of gaining weight! As for the sailing, bloody brilliant. There are few times in life that an opportunity of this magnitude presents itself and when it does you must grab it. He knows that he will take away a lot and be a better person for it in everyday life and future challenges.

Paddy says he only went out for a packet of fags!

Gemma – my half way point was a little emotional, letters from friends and family reminded me of the love ones left at home. Reflecting on the last 18 days, it’s been bloody hard going but I wouldn’t change anything, not even one point for a second. Thoughts for the future: work hard, enjoy this experience and take away as much as possible from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


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