295 (Hampshire Yeomanry) Battery Royal Artillery is one of the newest Batteries in the Royal Artillery that was raised September 2014 with a small cohort of ex regular soldiers and a great deal of enthusiasm. The first challenge is to recruit and build the team of Reservist soldiers, and offshore sailing is perfect for building teams as it requires leadership, determination, specific skills that need to be learned, humour, patience and most importantly teamwork. Sailing is adventurous and tests all members of the crew whilst allowing crew members to get to know each other. With this in mind Ex Trident Ubique was conceived.
The exercise was sailing the Royal Artillery’s flag ship, St Barbara V, around the Solent area to give Battery members their first experience of sailing whilst team building in an adventurous environment. This was also an opportunity to cover the first 2 days of an RYA Competent Crew Course. St Barbara V is a 42’ Rustler yacht with 9 berths. There were 8 crew on the yacht so it wasn’t too cramped. They ranged in rank from Gunner to Major with 6 junior ranks, one senior rank and an officer.
The exercise started on the Friday night taking over the yacht in Gosport’s Premier Marina. Once all the food was stowed, the foul weather gear issued and the bunks allocated, training began; from how to use the cooker on a gimble to using the head (naval term for toilet). There are a lot of tasks on a boat that size so that evening just focussed on areas inside the cabin. Whilst we had sufficient food for cooking a meal it was decided that a ‘run ashore’ would be easier so an eatery in Gosport was found. By 10 pm all were fed and tucked up in their berths.
Saturday was all about educating the routine of washing, cooking breakfast, and preparing the boat for sea all at the same time with all tasks being shared. As there was a lot of learning to be done we didn’t set sail until after lunch. It was a beautiful day with clear skies and a gentle breeze; perfect for learning to sail. Within the next few hours everybody got familiar with coming alongside a pontoon, hoisting the sails and steering the boat. The anchor went down off Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and the evening meal was prepared. After washing up was done and a few knots were learned, we weighed anchor and sailed back to Gosport for the evening. After coming alongside all got showered and we sat down with a glass of wine and told stories until all we ready for sleep; that was 9pm.
Sunday was an early start with alarms sounding at 6am, and from then on it was a flurry of activity with a small break of about 10 minutes when we ate our poached eggs on toast skilfully prepared by the Permanent Staff Instructor. By 8 am we were all on deck with our foul weather gear casting off and setting sail for the Solent. This day was a little greyer with significantly more wind. The boat now heeled over quite readily as we sailed upwind bringing immense smiles to those on the helm whilst the colour drained from a few faces as the yacht rolled in the tacks. Keeping the crew busy kept the discomfort of sea-sickness at bay and those that suffered quickly returned to smiling. Lunch was a challenge as it was cooked whilst sailing so that when we came to anchor off Cowes the sausage and bacon butties were ready for all. Food tastes so much better when you have to work hard to get it.
After lunch we weighed anchor and sailed downwind with the tide back into Gosport to clean the boat and prepare it for handover. By 4 pm we were driving back to the Reserve Centre in Hilsea and all had felt they were given a gift in the experiences they’d had over the weekend. Each soldier knew each other that much better and the 295 Bty team had grown in strength. One phrase that was said to me encapsulates the success of the weekend; “When can we do that again Boss?”