The exercise is organised by the Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre and will involve two 72-foot Challenger 72 yachts completing a circumnavigation of the globe in 13 legs that will include multiple ocean crossings and participation in the prestigious Sydney to Hobart race.
The British Army has been allocated one of the 2 yachts for the duration of the exercise and will crew all the legs with a variety of serving Regular and Reserve personnel from across all cap badges.
Private Ashley (Ash) Cooper, from 2 PWRR based in Cyprus, is crewing the third leg of the exercise. Ash is 18 at the moment and will be celebrating his 19th birthday mid Atlantic. Find out how he’s been getting on.
Day One – Thursday 24 September
We arrived on Sunday 20th September, everyone settled in well on Discoverer (Challenger 72) and slept on board for our first night as a crew. The first few day were used for admin and getting to know the boat, lessons and sightseeing. Day 2 was used to see Rio’s sights including Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana beach, Sugar loaf Mountain and a social meal to bond as a crew. The following day we started with lessons, followed by a training sail in and around Rio’s harbour so that everyone could get to grips with the boat and the basics of sailing and essential emergency drills. Thursday 24th we prepared the boat for departure and some last minute shopping for supplies. At 1500 local time we slipped berth and sailed into the south Atlantic towards South Africa. As we sail into the ocean the crew are in good spirits and a good amount of healthy competition exists between the two yachts. The crew are grafting well as a team to face this challenge head on as the army always has. Eating dinner is a challenge to say the least, especially at a forty five degree angle!
Day Two – Friday 25th September
It was a bit of a rough start today for the crew of the Discoverer as large swells engulfed the hull of the boat and large amounts of spray battered the crew until they are like drowned rats! However un-deterred we sailed on. There have been one or two inevitable cases of sea sickness due to the sea state but everyone felt much better when the sea had calmed and the wind had dropped. Spirits are still high on board with light hearted humour still the main pick up of moral. We are averaging speeds of 6-10 knots which is quite good for a crew of mainly novices! As we push on into the night the wind has steadily got stronger, but the sea has remained relatively clam for now; we can only wait to see what tomorrow brings!
Day Three – Saturday 26th September
Such a calm start as the sun rose on a somewhat overcast but peaceful south Atlantic. Most of the day was spent trying to get some speed up to cover more distance with a goosewing (mainsail and headsail on opposite sides of the boat) being rigged towards lunch time. We hit a bit of a snag in our travels around 1400 when the Cunningham snapped off the main sail which in turn had to be taken down for repairs by Chris our sail maker.
Luckily we had the sail back up and working before the sea deteriorated and the wind picked up. Admittedly this gave way for some awesome sailing, but it made other jobs such as stowing sails and cooking somewhat difficult to say the least. However all members of the crew are still in high spirits and the healthy banter between crewmates is flowing to keep the morale at the high level it is already.
Day Four – Sunday 27th September
Yet another calm day of mainly motor sailing rather than sailing unfortunately. However the break in the wind and weather has to a certain extent given the crew a brief respite, so mainly washing was done today whilst the spray wasn’t lapping over the guard rails! All the watches are still rotating efficiently, with all cases of sea sickness redundant! Some members of the crew even found the time and the energy to try their luck at a spot of fishing, although not productive at these depths of some 4000; it was a way to pass time and relax between watches. The boat has had a well needed clean and tidy and kit being stowed properly so it’s not in the way of this effective team that bonds more by the day.
Day Five – Monday 28th September
A good days sailing again today with virtually flat seas and glorious sun shine throughout the day with an average speed of ten knots. We are well on course for our arrival day in Cape Town with the possibility of being a day early at this rate! As it stands we are in a mind blowing 5000m of water (5km from the surface to the bottom) which just shows how vast this ocean is and the variety of potential marine life below that is un aware of our voyage across it. Today has given us our first, albeit brief, encounter with the dolphins of the south Atlantic! This naturally stirred up excitement among the crew and gave us a morale boost to push on with this epic adventure!
Day Six – Tuesday 29th September
Sun, sun, sun and more sun aboard the Discoverer today as the weather continues to be glorious. How long this will last isn’t really known but hopes are high it does! The calm sea state and consistent wind makes sailing a breeze and a lot more comfortable than the Navy/Air Force boat to the south who haven’t faired so comfortably with the weather. We are still averaging between 9-10 knots which puts us well on target for Cape Town. Competition between the watches over the cooking is heating up, with more challenging dishes being prepared to outdo the others. This is always good as the remaining crew get some 5 star food! After a long day of sailing and taskings, a hot scoff is exactly the moral boost people need.
Day Seven – Wednesay 30th September
A happy crew today as we discover that the Army is leading Navy/RAF boat in the un-official race across the Atlantic! There is definitely some inter-service rivalry on who will get there first. Naturally my money is on the Army to win, but that would be a bit bias! On a smaller scale, the food competition has definitely been won for now by blue watch with their chicken dish tonight, out doing white watch’s with their millionaire shortbread. The weather has been fair and the same as you have probably read in previous days; the only exception being that it has been a lot hotter today. All the crew are managing to grasp the job of helmsman as we rotate the role through various wind speeds and sea states. I think it’s fair to say everyone is starting to have their sights zeroed on Cape Town more and more by the day.
Track where they are now: http://yb.tl/extransglobe15-16