Exercise Transglobe 15/16: Week 2 Leg 3

Ex TRANSGLOBE is a multi-leg, round the world, adventurous sail training event taking place from July 2015 to August 2016. Private Ashley Cooper

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 8 – Thursday 1st October

I think its now safe to say our luck with the weather has finally run out now with rain pouring down all day and the wind not doing what we want it to do.  Concurrent to that the sea state was throwing the boat around like a rubber duck in a water rapids ride!  However yet again the best meal is broken, which seems to be a daily occurrence with this crew.  Despite the weather there are silver linings… like White Watch’s team film viewing on the four hours off before the routine soaking from the South Atlantic’s weather.  It’s safe to say that after today there won’t be much complaining about the heat again (if it ever comes back!!)

Day 9 – Friday 2nd October

As we sail through the eye of a storm on yet another night with oddly nil ambient light, it shows how the weather changes rapidly, with little or no warning at sea.  It’s odd because bar yesterdays rain and wind, most days have been bright and sunny and up until recently the moon gave off so much ambient light that it was almost as bright as day, only adding to the beautiful night sky almost mirrored in the vast ocean around our speck of a boat in comparison.  Today consisted of another day of sailing as fast as possible to potentially get into Cape Town a day early (providing we average above 7 knots daily) and with us being almost at the half way point of this epic venture, it’s a welcome thought, especially after White watch’s home like cooking of a sausage casserole to warm up crew mates that have come off the deck that was more like a scene of a ship prior to sinking!

Day 10 – Saturday 3rd October

As the sun sets on another day in the Atlantic, we are grateful for the good weather we have all hoped for after yesterday and last nights strong winds which although couldn’t be felt by those on mother watch, could definitely be felt and endured by those on deck!  And with us now over half way, I think all the crew are relived that that spell of weather is over.  Today we have found out from various crew family members back in the UK, tracking the two boats, that we are ahead of the RAF/Navy boat “Adventure” by just over 30 nautical miles!  Considering that we were 60 miles behind them only a few days ago just shows how hard the Army crew is grafting to get to Cape town before the other boat!

Ex TG Leg 3 - Sailing on DiscoDay 11 – Sunday4th October

Another overcast day in the Atlantic unfortunately, although some good sailing conditions being produced as the day rolled on to the evening and night as a sliver lining.  Spirits are still high as we approach South Africa more and more by the day, especially now we are past the half way mark and are still as always, leaving the RAF and Navy in our dust (or in this case spray!), by about 35 miles tonight which I’m sure will increase in the coming days!  Morale aboard is still maintained by plenty of brews being belt fed to those on deck and fresh bread being baked daily. Little things like that can keep crew members happy in this massive ocean.

Day 14 – Wednesday 7th October

After a few days of rough seas and strong winds and the mother watch and off watch feeling like the numbered balls being selected for the national lottery, it was refreshing to have a few hours of sunlight and relatively flat seas!  Even better when it holds out well into the night… Granted the sunlight didn’t last that long, but that’s neither here nor there.  With a 65 mile lead on the RN/RAF boat and counting, the marina in Cape Town has never looked so good, especially when at the rate we are going we are going to make it in four days!  Which is music to sea salt ridden ears!  We can only hope that the weather holds for the remainder of the trip.  As much as we all wanted to experience what the South Atlantic could throw at us, we are at the stage of wanting to get our boots back on solid ground!

Track where they are now: http://yb.tl/extransglobe15-16

Exercise TRANSGLOBE 15/16: Leg 3, Week 1

Private Ashley CooperEx TRANSGLOBE is a multi-leg, round the world, adventurous sail training event taking place from July 2015 to August 2016.

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!

Christ the Redeemer

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.

Yacht Discoverer Army Sailing

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

Fastnet update: 8 August 2013

Maj Heidi Spencer writes about the crew’s preparation for the Fastnet race, which starts on 11 August…

We enjoyed a more leisurely start this morning, and Emily cooked us some yummy sausage sandwiches because little wind was forecast first thing. Caz also mended some sails – there are always maintenance jobs to carry out!

We then headed out from Cowes and into the Solent to do some more spinnaker work, each time trying to get faster and more slick with out hoisting and dropping drills. Lucie was pleased with our performance, and we anchored up in Osborne Bay for a bit of lunch and a chance to discuss and plan our food menu and shopping for next week. Keeping our energy and hydration levels up will be key.

If there is no wind next week, we will have to use the anchor as a brake to reduce the effect of the tide pushing us backwards. Fingers crossed there will be wind – anchor drills are messy and laborious. As we nibbled on lunch, we could see in the distance a fleet of colourful racing spinnakers competing in Cowes week, reminding us that our own race is only three days away… Bring it on!

Update 7 August 2013

Update 6 August 2013

Enjoying the sunshine in the Solent – Lucie at the helm.

Enjoying the sunshine in the Solent – Lucie at the helm.

On the rail.

On the rail.

Alongside in Cowes – stickers on ready for the race!

Alongside in Cowes – stickers on ready for the race!

First Fastnet women-only Army team

Capt Lucie Allaway (seated), Maj Saskia Hart, WO2 Caz Olive, Maj Sam Shepherd, Capt Emily Williams, Maj Heidi Spencer, Maj Leila Green, Capt Lorna Craik

Capt Lucie Allaway (seated), Maj Saskia Hart, WO2 Caz Olive, Maj Sam Shepherd, Capt Emily Williams, Maj Heidi Spencer, Maj Leila Green, Capt Lorna Craik

The first women-only Army team to enter the prestigious Fastnet race is making its final preparations before the race start on Sunday.

In total, there are just three all-women teams taking part in the infamous 608-mile offshore race, where as many as 380 yachts from 22 countries will set sail from Cowes in a race to the Fastnet Rock off the coast of Ireland before returning via the Isles of Scilly and the finish line at Plymouth.

The race is notoriously dangerous and difficult to complete, with the all-female crew having the added challenge of not being as strong as some of the other teams, explains skipper Captain Lucie Allaway.

“The challenges of the race are similar for all the teams, indeed sailing is one of the few sports where men and women can compete on a level playing field,” she said.

“However, with so many females in the team it makes our average height 5’4” where normally you would have at least one six-foot man on board who can heave on ropes by himself to release anything that is caught where we have to work as team to overcome those kinds of challenges.”

Despite the challenges though, Lucie was determined to enter an all-female team.

“I’ve been sailing all my life but it was only last year at the Inter Service Regatta that I realised that while ten percent of the Army are women we don’t have a ten percent representation at competitive offshore racing. So, having done the Fastnet myself the previous year I was thinking of doing it again, and maybe skippering, so I thought why not do it with an all-female crew?

“It is challenging and nerve racking as I’ve never sailed this as a Skipper, let alone as leading the first all-women’s Army team, but it’s exciting too. Ultimately for the military teams taking part though it will come down to the weather. If we get heavier weather this boat will love it, but if we get lighter winds there are lighter boats that will do better.”

Just back from Afghanistan

Also keeping her eye on the elements is fellow team mate Captain Emily Williams who returned from Afghanistan four weeks ago.

Capt Emily Williams

Capt Emily Williams

“I’ve tried not to look into the dangerous parts people know about with this race, but it is difficult as it is a bit of the planet that has its own ideas about whether or not you should do well,” explains Emily, who agreed to take part in the challenge before she deployed to Afghanistan as a relatively inexperienced sailor.

“There is no one bit of the race that if we get passed it is going to make me think: we are OK now we on the way home. I will be more aware of the weather and the sea than anything else.”

Emily did as much training in the gym as she could for the race in Afghanistan and admits that while she would normally be on extended post tour leave, while she waits to start her next post, the opportunity to compete in the race was too good an opportunity to miss.

“It’s actually quite hard to come back from tour where you are working all the time to suddenly not working at all, so I would have given up my leave to do this even if it hadn’t been extended. It’s Fastnet! It’s not like doing two weeks training for qualification. It’s doing one of the biggest races in British sailing.”

The race starts from Cowes on Sunday August 11 and will be the 88th Fastnet.