The crews taking part on the longest leg of Exercise TRANSGLOBE are preparing to slip their moorings in Auckland, New Zealand to sail the longest and certainly one of the toughest stages of the year-long 13-stage Exercise to Montevideo. Here’s a first-person run down of a busy few days leading up to today’s departure from Nikki Woodroffe, 2nd mate aboard the Navy boat, Adventure.
The Royal Navy check in to Auckland and get on aboard Adventure
The crews from all the services were meeted and greeted at Auckland airport by Lt Cdr Roger Saynor (MBE) from the RNZN. All three crews were transported to the Devonport Navy Barracks and given a brief by OIC JSASTC Nick Trundle in typical southern Hemisphere style, by the swimming pool and in the sunshine. The crews then had chance to meet their individual skippers and see what the programme over the following few days entailed.
A day of rest for the incoming crew of Leg 8 was followed by the old skippers and mates departing to rejoin the refit team in Orams Yard to cut the new battens for all three mains and refit the luff boxes so in short, an afternoon of playing with anti corrosive ‘yellow stuff’, hacksaws and different size allen keys, whilst the jet lagged and climate shocked crew caught up on some rest.
Last Saturday morning (30th Jan), the Afterguard for each yacht which included outgoing Skippers, Mates and the 3 watch leaders departed after breakfast from the barracks in the famous ‘love buses’ hired especially for our troops to go from base to boat each day. This is about a 15k drive, past Bayswater where the late Sir Peter Blake grew up and first learnt to sail and over the harbour bridge and into the edge of town, to Orams yard where the boats were situated for their refit. The remainder of the crew rejoined the boats in the afternoon for a session of familarisation to the boat, including sorting out the watch teams and berths, foulies, lifejackets and a tour of the upper and lower deck. The main sail and the trysail were checked and hoisted successfully as sections of their respective tracks had been replaced during the refit.
On Sunday, compass swings were performed in the bay for all three boats and there was an element of excitement when the reins were released and crew on Adventure was tasked with hoisting the mainsail, and performing some reefing drills along the way. The Yankee 2 was also hoisted and then re-packed. Adventure crews listened carefully to their watch leaders as they were tasked with taking the lead for the drills. Back alongside, well done Nick for parking stern to between the most two expensive boats in the marina, if not Auckland, Aquila and Drumbeat, one of which kindly created a large wind shadow to aid the manoeuvre. Once along side the headsail was re-hoisted for the benefit of our stray crew Clive Cooper, who says he was abandoned, but truth be known he was shopping and got carried away doing something for someone else…no names… ah bless!
Discoverer doing sail drills alongside, were the lucky winners of Clive’s company for the afternoon, but then the tables were turned as when Clive returned to Adventure and Nick Carter’s secret-winning Sydney Hobart sail manoeuvres were out of the bag for all of Adventure to enjoy…good tactics Clive. A delightful crew meal at the waterfront, in Viaduct Harbour including spectacular fireworks, followed.
On Monday the crew were given the day off to enjoy some Auckland festivities. The National Maritime museum, the Seafood festival and Florence and the machine were all enjoyed by the crew.
Tuesday dawned and the crew were tasked with removing every item from the boat in order for measurements to be taken for some weight calculations, concerning load lines. Items were removed ,placed on the nearby pontoons, statistics taken, coded items were weighed and stowed and more stats taken, all remaining kit was weighed and stowed… you get the picture!! A particularly busy and tiring day, even the pontoons were glad it was over.
Now it is Wednesday, a slightly sunnier day after a morning putting everything back in its’ place after yesterday’s chaos, followed by a session of mast climbing for essential crew photos. There is now a big sense of expectation as the final preparations for departure are being finalised. As I type, 2 electricians and a mechanical engineer are fixing emergency lights, Clive and John are sewing the sponsor flags, Tim and Dave are starting to fix the forepeak ladder and D rings, Laura is being creative with some netting in the galley for good stowage, Steve is sorting his admin out, Andy is changing bulbs in torches, as every good doc does, Frankie is chasing the gas contractor and I’m trying to do some Navigation to get us out to the start line which is 42 miles from here off the Coromandel Headland for the start on Saturday and the Skipper is counting his money ready for buying the provisions for 1680 man meals on Friday!!
This will be our last shout before we head out to sea, so from all on Adventure, we send our best.
…and here’s some more information just to remind folks of the facts!
The challenges include up to 45 days at sea + good judgement on the weather & provisioning!
The total nautical mileage for this section is 6,300, the longest of the Exercise and requiring a possible 45 days at sea for the crews, some of whom are novice sailors. It is hoped that the yachts will average 7 knots and take only 38 days to round Cape Horn and travel up the East coast of South America but the crews will have to buy and store sufficient provisions to last for the full 45 days as winds in the South Atlantic are notoriously unreliable. The final destination is Punta del Este in Uruguay, situated at the northern entry to the River Plate.
Owing to the particular challenges of this stage of the Exercise, all skippers have been given specific instructions about the route to take to pass Cape Horn. They are not permitted to sail further south than 51°S until East of 105°W, then no further South than 54°S until east of 95°W, then no further South than 56°S until east of 80°W and then no further south than 57°30’S. Yachts are to sail no closer than 3nm of Cape Horn.
Weather will play a major factor in the tactics used by the three crews. They have access to the US UGRIB weather site to download weather predictions and will also receive messages from ground stations via the SATC system. Nevertheless, they will be expecting high winds, predominately from the West and mountainous seas. All will be aware of Adventure’s knockdown during Leg 4 and will be taking all steps to avoid a repeat.
For the Royal Navy on Adventure, the skipper Nick Trundle has a very strong team that includes four Yachtmasters, one Coastal and three Day Skippers. One of the Yachtmasters, Nikki Woodroffe, will be on her second consecutive leg of TRANSGLOBE having sailed from Hobart to Auckland as 1st Mate on Leg 7. Nikki is a Lieutenant in the RN Reserves and is a teacher and CCF instructor at Kelly College, Devon. Laura Cambrook is a sailing novice but has a strong sense of adventure. As a Lieutenant in the Fleet Air Arm, she is between courses to become a fully trained Observer on the Lynx helicopter.
Onboard Challenger the Army yacht, JSASTC staff skipper Becky Walford will have charge of a crew from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Becky is fresh from her success in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race as the skipper of Discoverer the RAF yacht that won the Oggin Trophy presented to the first Armed Forces entry and as the first female skipper to cross the finish line. Her crew includes personnel only recently returned from operations in Afghanistan and she is skippering an all-male team. When asked why these soldiers want to climb on board a yacht and sail the toughest leg of TRANSGLOBE, the Regiment’s Press Officer, Captain Dan Wright, explained that this voyage is looked upon as a reward after such an intensive tour of duty. “The Fusiliers have really been in the thick of it and the Battalion has lost some men. The guys really need this.”
On the RAF yacht Discoverer is skipper Mike Symes from JSASTC who completed Leg 4 as skipper of the Army yacht. This time he has an RAF crew including three Yachtmasters, two Coastal and two Day Skippers. Dr Nick Carter is another member of the winning RAF crew in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race who is returning to the Exercise to face the challenge of the Southern Ocean. The two Coastal skippers are Flight Lieutenants Jo Rimmer and Jo Anderson both of whom are looking forward to sailing around the Horn. Jo Rimmer is a Doctor and Jo Anderson is a qualified physiotherapist but works in the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Cell at RAF Kinloss as a controller.