Exercise TRANSGLOBE 15/16

Exercise TRANSGLOBE was first sailed in 1998/99 when each Service sailed a Nicholson 55 yacht west-about around the world via the Panama Canal.  Since then, Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre has had a history of supporting demanding and challenging offshore and Ocean sailing.  The previous global exercises include MERCURY CHALLENGE (Royal Signals) and then exercise GOLDEN EAGLE (Army Air Corps) circumnavigated in 2006/7, exercise TRANSGLOBE in 09/10.  JSASTC has supported multiple ocean based exercises to the Arctic, Baltic, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and within the Channel and round Britain.

Exercise TRANSGLOBE 2015/16 was born out of a proposal by the OiC at JSASTC to circumnavigate again; and that this time the plan would include all three Services on two vessels.  The aim of the exercise was to develop the personal qualities and promote ethos essential to members of HM Armed Forces, Reserve Forces, the UOTC and specially selected members of the Cadet Forces, through adventurous sail training in a Service environment.

I was chosen for Leg 13 which would see me sail from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, across the North Atlantic to the UK. As with all legs, the first couple of days are spent at JSATC HQ at Gosport for the obligatory safety briefs and kitting of the foul weather clothing.  I was lucky enough to be there during the Portsmouth leg of the Americas cup and so with Saturday as free time I decided to take in some racing and watched Sir Ben Ainsley and his Land Rover BAR team take 2 of the 3 races in his usual exciting fashion.

With an early start on the Sunday, we arrived at Heathrow to catch the plane that would take us to meet the Yachts which were by now moored at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Sqn. The next few days would see us getting used to the boat with maintenance activities that needed to be carried out alongside practical and theory lessons before we would take her out for a day on the water to practice man over board drills and allow the novices time under sail to teach them about the strange language of sailing. After an hour of drills and 3 hours of tacking and gybing (Turning through the wind and turning with the wind behind the boat), we headed back to the RNSYS for down time ready for the sail back to the UK.

After a day and night in Halifax soaking up the sights and local atmosphere, the final few hours were spent prepping the boat, sails and kit ready for sea including a massive shopping expedition to ensure we had enough food to last us until we reached the UK.

We ‘let go’ Halifax at midday 28 July 16 and had planned for the passage to take us 17 days with fair winds. As soon as we hit open water we were able to raise the sails with winds nudging up as high as 20 knots. After 6 hours of getting used to the boat under sail we split into 3 watch’s and quickly settled into the pattern of life that would see us cross the Atlantic.

On rotation, each watch sailed for 2 days, spending 4 hours on deck followed by 4 hours rest. Then the third day on ‘motherwatch’ where we deep cleaned areas of the boat and cooked the meals for the other watches. We ate a lot of pasta and rice dishes, wraps for lunch and fresh bread baked daily by each motherwatch crew.

Living space below deck was rather snug. We slept on bunks, much smaller than a single bed, in very close quarters. We showered in the same enclosure used to do all other ablutions and had little storage space to live out of. What seemed a very spacious boat on first glance, became quite restrictive after time.

Due to the remnants of a hurricane in the Caribbean, we encountered a force 11 storm 9 days into our journey. Owing to the fierce conditions, the yacht was put on ‘stormwatch’ where only 3 crew members were on deck at one time for 2 hours at a time. The waves reached up to 30ft often crashing over the boat. This was, by far, my highlight of the trip.

Along the journey we were joined by many dolphins who swam alongside the boat, entertaining us with their jumping and playing in the waves. Closer to the UK, we also came across whales surfacing unbelievably close to us.

The yachts arrived back in the UK on 13 Aug, having crossed the Atlantic for the third time on this exercise. This allowed us to take part in the more social side of sailing that would see us in 4 different harbours with a few hours of day sailing between each one. We were able to visit Falmouth, Fowey, Plymouth and Cowes on our way back to Gosport. On Sat 20 Aug 16, we arrived alongside at Haslar Harbour for the official end of the sailing phase of Exercise TRANSGLOBE as the yachts were welcomed into their home port and back alongside at JSASTC.

Looking back, the trip has definitely reinvigorated my love of sailing and I hope to take part in the next Transglobe in 4-5years time. I am very lucky to have been able to take part in this opportunity thanks to the support of my colleagues and management, being allowed 4 weeks off work to take part in a sport you enjoy is welcome and I had support from the outset by all in the chain of command.

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