In the early hours of Sunday 7th October members from the Woolwich based National Reserve Headquarters Royal Artillery (NRHQRA), embarked on Exercise COCKNEY MEDSAIL. This Adventurous Training Exercise comprised of four students overseen by two instructors and after quick introductions it was quickly apparent that except for the experienced Skipper, Richard and the organiser, Bruce, that the rest of the crew (Nick, Iain and Rob) didn’t have any real sailing knowledge apart from some basic Army Watermanship training and Dingy sailing; “Mac” the other crew member was another novice sailor, already in Cyprus as advance party.
After a non-eventful (apart from baggage challenges) 4½ Hour British Airways flight to Cyprus, we were met by Mac and made our way Episkopi Garrison for our overnight accommodation where some detailed planning for the following weeks sailing was conducted. The weather forecast was favourable and it was decided that we would head east towards the Cape Creko Peninsula, although with strong warnings not to stray into Northern Cyprus waters.
Early start on the Monday and we split up into teams to get provisions and take over the yacht at RAF Akrotiri, which is located in one of the two Sovereign base areas in Cyprus.
With all the relevant foul weather kit issued and mandatory safety brief received from the staff at the Tri Service Sailing centre and the Skipper we cast off and left RAF Akrotiri under motor before putting up the sails and heading across the bay of Limassol. The conditions were ideal with a light South Easterly which enabled us all to gently familiarise ourselves at the helm under sail whist also trying to learn all the nautical terms such as aft, astern, feathering and jib amongst others which we where being bombarded with.
A critical part of sailing which you need to get right is navigation, and we all got an opportunity to practice this by taking bearings off prominent land marks and translating those points onto the navigational charts which enabled us to plot our course; we just had to get use to working in Knots, Nautical Miles and Degrees!
We entered the small fishing port of Zygi just after dark, moored up and set about putting our culinary skills in to action. After a joint effort cooking a well received hot one pot pasta dish was produced from the Galley and consumed whilst reflecting on the days training. After being on the yacht all day a walk ashore to the “vibrant” fishing port of Zygi was in order where blow up beds were purchased to free up living space below as Nick and Iain decided to sleep on deck.
The next day we set off early under sail heading east across the bay of Larnaca, passing the Sovereign Base of Dhekelia and the busy resort of Ayi Napa towards our final destination Cape Creco. This long leg gave all of us the opportunity to get quality time at the helm coupled with favourable wind conditions we were able to get our sea legs established. A quirk that we had to get use to was the slight delay in relation to steering input and what the yacht actually does! It was a bit like controlling oversteer in a car being careful not to overcompensate in the opposite direction. Some amusement was had when we were inadvertently zig-zagging across the bay.
I think I can say that all of us enjoyed mooring up in the early evening in Cape Creco Bay which provided us a chance to demonstrate our inflatable dingy rowing abilities skills which had mixed results and the opportunity to swim in the lovely warm clear waters of Cyprus. The day on the yacht highlighted what adventure training does; it brings people together, challenges them whilst also creates a sense of belonging and teamwork. That evening we sat discussing the days events and other topical subjects under the night sky in the bay whist watching a storm brew over the south of the island which provided some spectacular lighting and thunder.
The next few days the weather changed in that we had little or no wind, which proved very difficult to sail in. This however did test our ability to trim the sails to get it “just right” to maximise our speed in order to make any headway. The Skipper demonstrated how to shape the mainsail to achieve maximum efficiency which made us realise that whilst we had nearly completed our competent crew course there was a lot still to learn. That evening saw us berth in the upmarket Limassol Marina amongst some rather splendid super yachts where we had a run ashore for some food and well earned entertainment after a long hot day at sea.
The following morning we took the opportunity whilst heading across Limassol Bay avoiding the large Tankers spread across the bay to refresh man-overboard drills under motor before heading west towards RAF Akrotiri to clean and handover the yacht.
One of the challenges that everyone agreed with is that being on a small yacht you have to be a disciplined well organised team as your accommodation and living space is limited.
The course was a huge success and really wetted our appetite to progress within the RYA Syllabus giving us a foundation to build on. Sailing is challenging in so many ways we where lucky with the weather being warm and calm but the other challenges of being organised, disciplined and working as a team stood out during this Adventure Training Exercise.
This expedition has resulted in four new personnel qualified and interested in developing their experience and skills in Offshore Yachting as Adventure Training (AT). This form of AT is excellent at developing team skills in arduous conditions with a strong need for an underlying focus on safety. It is also a useful retention tool, both the individuals concerned and, by implication, to this Unit.
“I have learnt what it means to be a team player as living in close proximity to each other we had to get on.”
“Having enjoyed the last few days under sail has encouraged me to seek further opportunities to crew and hopefully progress through the RYA syllabus.”
On behalf of the crew I would like to thank Lt Col Bruce Snelling who organised the trip, Richard Grimwood the Skipper for his tuition and patience and the Ulysses Trust for their contribution, which has enabled four land-lovers to make the step towards being competent crew members on future sailing expeditions.
National Reserve Headquarters Royal Artillery (NRHQRA)