The West Coast Challenge offshore sailing expedition left the port of Oban on the 6th August 2012 for a demanding seven days sail-training in the waters around Scotland’s Western Isles on board the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland 72′ Challenge yacht, Alba Endeavour.
The crew was comprised of senior cadets, all aged 18 years or above, selected from units across the United Kingdom. With many years cadet service between them and already with some significant achievements under their belts (Flying Scholarships, Gliding Proficiencies and Junior Leaders for example) the sailing expedition aims to provide a new experience in a challenging and unfamiliar environment amongst their peers. A level playing field (if that’s possible at sea!) where they can develop their teamwork, leadership skills, empathy and understanding.
With favourable conditions and a fair wind the determined crew managed a very creditable 36 hour first leg which took them to the remote island of St Kilda – the most westerly of the Western Isles other than Rockall. After anchoring in the bay the group went ashore for a brief visit and a climb to the top of Conachair, at 430 metres the highest point on the island.
OYT Skipper, Trevor Farrar, congratulated the group on reaching St Kilda, “Conditions have to be just right to get here and even more so to be able to anchor in the bay and go ashore. We manage to get here maybe once or twice a year – so well done to the crew, their hard work paid off.”
After leaving St Kilda the group sailed on to Loch Dunvegan, Rhum, Loch Ceann Traigh (where they crew watched the sunset as they anchored and sunrise as they departed) and Tobermoray before returning to Oban.
The experiences of the cadet crew can best be summed up in their own words:
“One of the best experiences of the voyage was being on the helm on an 8 – 12 shift in the evening, sailing under the stunning canopy of stars watching both the sunset and the moonrise.” Cdt Sgt Joy Wakeling, 1211 (Swadlingcote) Sqn
“This week has been a master class in communication!” Cdt Flt Sgt Sally Thompson, 85 (Enfield) Sqn
“St Kilda is about 120 miles out from Oban or 36 hours … our first non-stop voyage was amazing” CWO Tom Smith, 1224 (Wharfedale) Sqn
“This was my first time sailing on the open sea and I’m glad I took on the challenge. The trip has been so rewarding on so many levels … my favourite part has to be heeling over at 30 degrees travelling at seven plus knots!” CWO Chris Moore 633 (West Swindon) Sqn
The cadets would like to say thank you to the sea-staff and all those at OYT Scotland who made the voyage possible. They would also like to express their gratitude to the Ulysses Trust and the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust for their generous and continued support.
SqnLdr M.P.Blakey, HQAC.