In June 2017, a crew consisting of soldiers from The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry took part in an expedition to sail the Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club boat, Yacht Ajax, from Gosport to Barmouth in Wales.
Named ‘Exercise Sea Wolf’, reflecting the unit’s cap-badge of a grey wolf, the aim of the expedition was to deliver Yacht Ajax to Barmouth in time for the race team to take part in the Three Peaks Yacht Race. So far, so simple; however this expedition posed a number of challenges, not least the distance – nearly 500 nautical miles – to be covered in a relatively short period of time. This came with the added concern that the deadline could not be missed; any delay in the delivery of the yacht would mean the race team would be disqualified from entering the race.
The crew were a range of ranks with a mixture of sailing experience from some with sailing qualifications to those who had never set foot on a boat before. As a result the punishing schedule was somewhat of a baptism of fire for the more novice crew, but all coped well and rose to the challenge, several overcoming the initial bouts of sea sickness with the usual good humour of a cavalry soldier. As well as working on their teamwork, communication and leadership skills, the expedition served to provide the crew with a wider life experience. Trooper Ritchie had never sailed before:
“it was a unique opportunity and I learned a great deal about sailing and working within the confines of the boat, and also about how the weather can make things particularly difficult. As a bonus I learnt a lot more about Britain’s coastline!”
Yacht Ajax proved to be a quick boat and made the sail in good time. The route chosen by the co-skippers saw a good mixture of day and night sailing with decent breaks at Yarmouth, Falmouth and Aberystwyth.
With 472 nautical miles logged and a total of 20 night hours in seven days the trip provided the right mix of enjoyable but exciting sailing. With the wind up to a force 6 around Land’s End and the rougher sea state, all the crew found a personal challenge which took them out of their normal comfort zone at least once during the expedition, epitomising the essence of what armed forces adventurous training is all about.
Captain Woodhams thought the exercise really highlighted the importance of,
“teamwork and getting into a rhythm over an extended period of time; all important skills for the crew of an armoured fighting vehicle.”
Trooper Gorwyn felt the exercise helped develop his own team working skills, especially in cramped conditions and under stressful circumstances:
“I learnt a lot, not only about sailing but also about how to manage time, resources and responsibilities amongst all the crew. Despite having never sailed before, I enjoyed the experience immensely and would love to take part in similar exercises in the future.”
The crew of Ajax would like to express their gratitude to the Ulysses Trust for their kind grant towards the cost of this expedition. Thanks also to the Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club for the use of their fantastic boat.