Ex. TRANSGLOBE: Enjoy some crew reflections pre-start Leg 5

ADVENTURE – Royal Navy

Skipper Neil, Ian, Pete, Steve, Sara, Charlotte, Colin, Kevin, Olly, Tom, Lisa, Rich, Jeremy, Amanda and Mike

Where is the best place to start writing a blog – do you start at the beginning of the trip and describe all the apprehension and excitement – or start it post events and constantly play catch up? I think we all will embrace the ad hoc approach and see what happens…………..

The team gathered in Gosport and the team building began – being the home port of many there was still DIY to finish, clothes to be ironed and netball tournaments to be watched so unlike the ARMY and the RAF the depleted team of a few went for a quiet drink together post the first day of briefings and kitting out.  The initial video shown to us certainly opened our eyes to what was to come – the crew consisting of complete novice through to the experienced sailor all raised eyebrows at some point – stirring and motivational stuff indeed.  Commitment, Self-Confidence, Courage, Leadership, Teamwork, Determination, ADVENTURE, CHALLENGE AND DISCOVERY were all there – STUPIDITY was not mentioned once! Especially being the team to follow the previous leg from South Africa to Perth.

Not only did the three teams have in common a Corinthian spirit but also a love of sailing or a will to learn, clearly what we did not have in common was the same size of bag!! To a person everyone had brought their own little bit of the United Kingdom with them to ensure their own comfort.  However post the briefings and the sales pitch from one of our sponsors – GILL – then some kit rationalisation was to be done! That being said when we got on the coach – there were still people who were smaller than their bags!

The flight was without incident – apart from a few misplaced passport numbers in Hong Kong – a couple of rogue apples sniffed out by the trained apple beagle at Perth airport and the issue of eating four big meals and 3 snacks in 20 hours of airport travel.  There were however some very heavy eyes when we arrived in Western Australia at 1am on the morning of Saturday 21st.  The bed provided at Leeuwin Barracks by the Royal Australian Navy was therefore like a big hug from a long last friend and we slept and slept and slept and……..you get the picture.

Saturday morning (proper) saw a stroll into Fremantle along the Swan River watching the freshwater dolphins toying with the fish in the shallow bays – a coffee in Cappuccino Way and big swallow of fresh air recharged the batteries.  There is no ozone layer left over Australia therefore the UV index here is plus 10 when the sun is out and the sun has been out since we got here.  As yet the heat is not uncomfortable but the sun is searing and we are all having to be aware.  The sun is beautifully tempered in the afternoons by the Australian Wind affectionately know as the ‘Doctor’ – as hot air replaces cold out at sea – something we soon hope to exploit.

Sunday and Monday have seen all three boats as hives of activity during the day – from routine maintenance – sails being stitched, halyards being re-tied and whipped, shackles being moused, pins being greased winches being taken apart and put back together again and again and again until at last they worked like they did before the un-initiated got hold of it; to sailing drills – there has been no feeling whatsoever of being thrown in at the deep end as everyone has benefited from the building process of hoisting – lowering – reefing – stowing – changing sails and now the excitement is building as we near putting it into practice.  Never again we will laugh or sneer at a caterers or chefs!!! Fabricating a menu through to buying the stores then actually making it magically disappear within in 67 feet of already heavily filled steel is not an evolution to be taken lightly.  There are only 15 of us for 15 days or so at sea but we will be dining like Kings and Queens!!!!  The most important provision was the Champagne that has been stored in the bilges to be brought out again as we sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Watch this space…………..

Socially the team has gelled completely –  13 travelled to meet our Skipper who had been in place for a week already then halfway through our first social event – a BBQ thrown by the Army at Fremantle Yacht club – our 15th member joined – Brigadier Jeremy Robbins RM – putting us all at ease one his first questions to an eager semi-circle of team-mates was where was his pit (priorities correct) – a wine fuelled answer was excitedly proffered ‘you are in the Starboard Port cabin sir’ – our non-plussed one star was suitably confused.  Our wine fuelled answerer was none the wiser!!!!  The team has thoroughly enjoyed two good runs ashore and this mixed with good hard slog and bags of fresh Australian sea air has ensured fitful sleep – although the Skipper and Mate have a snorer in their midst.  Earplugs are a must.

So in one hour we will head out on the blue and crinkly and taking a challenge that we are all exceedingly looking forward to – if you ever get the opportunity to do something like this then look after number one and grab the bull by the horns and do it – you will not regret it…………………..

CHALLENGER – Army

This is just the first round of hellos from the latest crew of HMSTV Challenger but we thought we’d get it in early and let those of you back home start to get a feel for how the whole trip pans out – warts and all – we promise to try and avoid a long list of menus and sail changes but should things get ‘a bit sporty’ we hope you’ll forgive us if we get a bit distracted.

‘Where are we man?’  – Bill S Preston, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

As with all of the legs of Transglobe we started out in Fort Blockhouse with the usual round of kit issues, briefings and generally child-like excitement.  For the majority of the, mainly, Royal Engineer crew it was a chance to catch up with old friends and for the rest it was a chance to meet the people they had signed up to spend a few cramped, damp and potentially ‘challenging’ weeks with…  After a couple of ‘ice-breakers’ in Gosport it soon became clear that we have a pretty balanced crew, with some experienced sailors, some novice and few that have ever done anything remotely like this leg! Such was the level of team bonding that our token non-Sapper George ‘Doc’ Kivell felt comfortable enough to come out of his closet and admit that he’s actually an ex-para.  After some quick consideration the rest of the crew felt his usefulness as a medic out-weighed his past and that we were good-to-go.  Next stop – Heathrow.

‘Are we nearly there yet?’ Donkey, Shrek 2

We’ll try and not dwell too much on this leg of Transglobe, it went as well as could be expected but 16 hours in cattle class to Hong Kong, a 40 minute transfer window and then another 6 ½ hours onto Perth was pretty grim. No matter which way you cut it, Australia is a really, really long way from Gosport and the boats have gone all that way already!

‘We need to work as a team – that means you do everything I say’ – Charlie Croker, The Italian Job

Our first ‘shout out’ has got to go to the Aussie Forces, in particular those who call Leeuwin Barracks, Freemantle home – a good night’s sleep, in proper beds, for all the incoming crew was a god-send and purely down to their generosity.  Cheers boys!

Getting down the boats was quite surreal for us, even given jet-lag it was still strange to see all three boats, battle-flags flying in perfect sunshine in a gorgeous marina.  There was little sign of the battering that these ladies took on the last leg and only the real train-spotters noticed a few missing bits of standing rigging and other tell-tales of a truly epic crossing from Cape Town.  On that side our Second ‘Shout out’ goes to Royal Logistic Corps Crew of Leg 4, and their skipper, Mike Symes – Thanks guys, the boat’s in great nick and that’s purely down to your hard-work and seamanship, we’ll do our best to hand her over in the same state (or better!).

‘I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat’ – Chief Brody, Jaws

The last couple of days have flown by, a short morning to recover from the journey was spent exploring Perth but we’ve mainly been slaving under the eyes of the skipper and mate as we prepare to go to sea.  We repacked everything we can think of, fitted the parts that we brought out for the boat from the UK, seen the last few pieces of standing rigging fitted and stowed an incredible amount of food in assorted nooks-and-crannies all over the boat.  One thing that we can’t quite get straight in our minds is that if 14 men need this much food for 16 days, how on earth did they fit in food for 30+ days? These ‘67s are truly Tardis-like but for the weight-shy racers amongst us the sheer amount of stores and equipment is a real culture shock.

As I write this blog our last supper ashore in Fremantle is being passed out of the ‘happy hatch’, we’ve a few last bits and pieces to sort but we all suspect that we’ll never be totally happy and so we’re as ready as we will ever be.

Having had a last look at the weather charts the skippers have agreed that it’s looking as good as it can be for the next few days so – all thing being equal – we’ll be heading off tomorrow morning.  Best of luck to the Royal Navy and RAF crews, we’ll see you in Sydney guys.

‘The clock is ticking, as of now we’re keeping score’ – Callsign Viper, Top Gun

DISCOVERER – RAF

G’day!!  Welcome aboard the good ship Disco and our inaugural blog of leg 5.  The leg will see us depart from Fremantle and with fair weather and Neptune in a favourable mood will see us arrive 2146 miles later in the city of Sydney.  The wishes and aspirations of the crew were not only to safely arrive on the East coast after travelling through 2 time zones and 2 oceans, but to be part of a team who proactively work together achieving many personnel goals – ranging from becoming comp crew to gaining a lotmore sea miles for further qualifications.  Andy’s personnel goal of achieving a winter tan in time for Christmas is well on the way after only 2 days and will be available as Rudolf’s side kick and Jamie’s personal achievement has already been exceeded.

The crew consisting of            Skipper – Phil Brown

1st Mate – Al Davies

2nd Mate – Paul Bevan

Red Watch Leader – Kev Tucker

Red Crew – Ian Birchall

Red Crew – Vanessa Neilson (Blog Queen!!!)

White Watch Leader   – Rich Rogers

White Crew – Bob Henry

White Crew – Andy Finlay

White Crew – Nick Harrison

Blue Watch Leader – Terry Griffiths

Blue Crew – Jo Bevan

Blue Crew – Jamie Deighton

Blue Crew – Richard (Bomber) Lancaster

Wednesday 18th Nov saw the intrepid crew meet for the first time as the grey storm clouds and a tempestuous sea greeted us at Gosport.  Is this an omen for our future adventure?  As the wind whipped around the old buildings we were safe knowing from leg 4 that our new Gill attire would keep us warm and dry but having listened to the briefing maybe the sun would be causing us more problems.  After 36 hours our adventure began with our transit to Heathrow airport, looking at the fear in the 3 crews faces the thought of ‘what have we let ourselves in for’ crossed all minds.  On arrival at Heathrow we met our 13th member Terry who had only 6 hours notice to move.

The journey to Perth was very long however the crews of Cathy Pacific and the executive lounge for the RAF was much appreciated and made the jet lag much more bearable, we tried our best for the other crews to gain entry but to no avail – by the way the back massage was stupendous.  The only hiccup was our departure from Hong Kong where 12 of the 38 strong crew were unable to depart unless the airport personnel spoke directly to the Australian Gov.  Our illustrious leader Al stepped in with immediate assistance only to be told –no travel to Australia.  The 12 unlucky crew members looked lovingly at Hong Kong Island hoping that the passport problem would remain unsolved.  Al again insisted that the airport really should take a look at a letter directly from the Gov.  The diplomatic incident continued to unfold and with only 15 mins remaining before take off the 3 crews joined together on board and took off for the final leg of an 18 hour marathon flight.

Once arrived at Perth the sniffer dog named Max took great interest in Terry’s bag not only barking but suddenly sat bolt upright on his bag, everyone wondered what he wanted to smuggle in!!! Maybe a secret stash of nutty?? Or was he just being a good boy??  However, nothing more than a leftover apple from a rogue packed lunch from Gosport. Well so he says.  After a comfortable night in Leeuwin Barracks and an early morning coffee we arrived at our trusty stead Discoverer and see Phil the skipper.  Our watches were decided and after a fantastic BBQ hosted by The Army and a few socialable shandies, we retired to bed.

The morning muster was bright and early as we were greeted by blue sky and a warm southern hemisphere sun.  Sunday was filled with yacht safety briefs and the pursers sorting out our morale for the next 14 days – the menu.  It is said an army marches on its belly, well I think that the food could mean the difference between life and death especially considering Rich is already making homemade sausage rolls.  Rising above the rest already.

Monday our last full day in Fremantle has seen the yacht being fully restored to its full glory with not only a full complete rigging but a water maker that works.  Considering the heat and the strength of the sun this is worth its weight in gold.  At least 14 fun packed days with 14 hot enthusiastic buccaneers at sea there is only enough wet wipes you can cope with.

Here we sit the final evening before we set sail on the high seas (Indian Ocean) and feel the spray in our faces and the wind on our backs.  Our injuries so far are few but comical, one squashed big toe and second our mates’ groin strain whilst stepping up one step.  Age comes to us sometime but the ships’ carpenter is getting excited and has already started carving out his new wooden leg.  The last time we saw Al he was seen hobbling to the doc on the Royal Navy yacht.  Quite surprisingly he received no sympathy, could’ve been the constant barrage of comments from him about seeing the Royal Navy in our rear view mirror.  The only mystery that has darkened Disco in its final land hours is the unsolved case of Bomber’s missing Y-Fronts.  The search party was sent ashore but their efforts were futile and Bomber has no option but to go commando.  He has been heard mumbling that they were his lucky pants – I’m so glad I’m not in his cabin.

To summarise we would like to thank the crew of leg 4 for bringing Disco safely to Fremantle and the other 2 crews for being with us to share this adventure.

Shout outs are available via the event website at http://www.exercisetransglobe.com – click on Pictures/Blog.

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