Exercise Brittany Wyvern 2012 was a Royal Wessex Yeomanry off-shore sailing expedition that took place on HM Sail Training Craft Sabre, a Nicholson 55 yawl. It started in Brest, France on 10 June 2012, finishing in Gosport on 24 June 2012. The Skipper and Mate stayed aboard for both weeks but crew members changed on the middle Sunday. During each week the skipper and mate took the non – sailors through the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) competent crew syllabus.
Initial briefings took place which included both Watches hoisting, reefing and lowering sails while alongside at Marina du Chateau, Brest. The old hands became familiar with the equipment and the six novice sailors put their new skills into action when Sabre set sail in light westerly winds for Camaret. On route man overboard drills were practised.
Day two presented a force 5 wind which suited the sail south towards Concarneau with a No 3 Genoa and one reef in the Mainsail. The wind died as we approached the tidal gate of the Raz de Seine but motor sailing and a favourable tide pushed the boat at 8 nautical knots in the right direction.
After a night in Concarneau the crew had a whistle-stop tour of the fortified old town, knot practice and dinghy drills before departing for Benodet. Tacking was the order of the day which proved to be very challenging for Red watch! That evening a decision was made to head back towards Brest the following day as an Atlantic gale was tracking towards the French coast and predicted to hit our sailing area in the next few days.
A lively beat out of Benodet was the start of a long bumpy sail into the open sea. Turning north at Pionte de Penmarc’h put Sabre onto a reach that continued the uncomfortable move through the Raz de Sein. Approaching an unlit Morgat harbour was a team effort with the mate giving the skipper information from the plotter as Daz Hill kept a good lookout and the remainder of the crew helped to ready the boat for securing to a finger pontoon which was achieved safely at 0100hrs on Thursday morning.
Departing at 0940Hrs onto a wet beat south, rounding Cap de la Chievre then reaching north into a heavy sea that kept Simon Jacko O’Neill and Paul Starbrook concentrating on trying to keep the boat on course in the rolling sea that was coming in from the open Atlantic. The sailing became easier after the turn east into the Brest Gulet and all were glad to see the marina in the afternoon.
The new crew’s itinerary followed the same format as the first as far as visiting Camaret but on day three Sabre moved north. The Watch leaders, Matt Blachford and Katy Allen were kept busy setting sails and organizing helm duties on the sail to L’Aber Wrac’h. The trip was eventful with dolphins riding the boats bow wave, an air sea rescue exercise taking place 500 metres off Sabre and the usual French fishing fleet intent on aiming at us!
The intention was to sail to Ploumanach further up the French coast but progress was slow due to the wind direction and tide so the Skipper decided to go straight to Guernsey. The weather deteriorated with heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning which closed in during the hours of darkness. Thursday 21 June was a stormy day spent entirely on a floating pontoon at St Peters Port.
Departing Guernsey at 0800hrs was timed to clear the Alderney race with three reefs in the main sail. We reached nearly 10 knots in a heavy confused sea which demanded full concentration of all the crew. A mooring was taken up in Braye harbour, Alderney at midday where the dinghy was launched to ferry the crew ashore. Evening meal was taken on board with the boat slipping at 2000hrs for the night sail to UK.
The Isle of Wight was sighted at dawn with breakfast taken on a mooring off Yarmouth before arriving at Gosport latter that day. In total 434 nautical miles were covered, 12 novice sailors were awarded an RYA Competent Crew certificate, Salty seadogs gained valued experience and a great time was had by all.