With special thanks to Squadron Leader Neil Cottrell who helped make it happen!
On Thursday 1st July three yachts from the UK Armed Forces’ Joint Services’ Adventurous Sail Training Centre (JSASTC) Gosport completed a 34,000 nm circumnavigation as they came alongside the Fieldhouse Pontoon in Haslar Creek. The ex-Challenge Business 67ft yachts set off from Gunwharf Quays on 11th July 2009 and have made landfall for crew changes 12 times at Lanzarote, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Fremantle, Sydney, Hobart, Auckland, Montevideo, Antigua Charleston, and Boston.
The three Services have each provided the 14 crew per yacht on every leg and colleagues, family and friends have followed the progress of “their” yacht throughout the voyage. The Royal Navy had Her Majesty’s Sail Training Vessel (HMSTV) ADVENTURE, the Army crewed on CHALLENGER and the RAF had DISCOVERER. Crews were a mixture of experienced, RYA qualified after guard and complete novices who had a very short period of familiarisation training before setting out on their respective passages.
The Southern Ocean provided a severe test of the boats and their crews on two occasions. Whilst on passage from Cape Town to Perth, ADVENTURE, with her crew of mostly Royal Marines recently back from Operations, suffered a knockdown in Force 10 winds and mountainous waves. Her skipper and the crew coped magnificently with the after effects and managed to go on to be the first to arrive in Fremantle.
The second event happened as the Army yacht approached Cape Horn during the passage from New Zealand to Uruguay. CHALLENGER had already suffered a failure of the mainsail mast track 6 days out of Auckland and had been forced to return to Wellington to effect repairs. Rejoining the passage some 12 days after her sister yachts CHALLENGER approached the Horn just as winds of 90 knots and more arrived. In the maelstrom of this storm CHALLENGER was knocked down FOUR times and lost all her comms aerials and the EPIRB on the first occasion. Falmouth MRCC notified the Project Office and JSASTC early on Saturday 13th March that CHALLENGER’s EPIRB was transmitting. The Chilean Navy launched a Search and Rescue aircraft that failed to locate the yacht but followed it up with a second aircraft that located CHALLENGER later that day. CHALLENGER’s skipper confirmed by hand held VHF that all on board were okay but with lots of bruises from the tumble drier ride. The yacht was so damaged by the knock downs that she was diverted to the Falkland Islands where the RN and Army workshops provided an outstanding effeort to repair the yacht so that the crew could be changed and for the yachts to continue direct to Antigua.
The RN, Army and RAF Offshore Racing Teams successfully competed in the 2009 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and all finished the race with the RAF winning the race within a race between the three Challenge boats. We had planned that the three yachts would participate with similar teams in the 2010 Antigua Sailing Week races but with CHALLENGER’s delay in the Falklands we were reduced to just two teams….and then the Icelandic volcano intervened. Sadly we could not deploy the Antigua Race week crews and so cancelled their participation.
All three yachts were ready for the Antigua to Charleston passage which was particularly important as each of the yachts had 4 crew members who had been seriously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. These 12 service personnel were supported by the Battle Back initiative that is funded by Help for Heroes to provide challenging adventurous training for injured soldiers, sailors and airmen. All twelve proved to be excellent sailors and fully contributed to all aspect of the sailing, watch keeping and life on board.
TRANSGLOBE has been 4 years in the planning and execution and the safe return this Thursday of the yachts marked the completion of a major effort to ensure that 540 service men and women from the very newest recruit to a three star officer could experience the exhilaration, challenge and sense of achievement from ocean crossing passages. We are very grateful to our Sponsors; GILL, Crewsaver, Selex and McMurdo for helping us to make this possible. The sponsors and our Patrons: HRH the Duke of York, Nick Knowles, Babs & Robert Powell and Bear Grylls have all been so supportive and everybody who has sailed on TRANSGLOBE appreciates their efforts on our behalf.
The benefits of sailing as a medium for delivering Adventurous Training to the Armed Forces cannot be overstated. There is no better place to learn the true value of leadership, teamwork and self reliance than on a seemingly limitless ocean at the whim of the weather. It is also a wonderful place to normalise personnel after operations, the value of which is gaining greater recognition.