HMS WILDFIRE arranges two sailing weekends per year, using the Joint Services Adventure Training yachts based in Gosport, UK. The aim of these weekends are to introduce novices to sailing; build teamwork, comradery and understanding amongst all ranks and rates; develop those with some sailing skills to enable them to progress on with further RYA qualifications; and ensure the reservists, who might not get to spend a lot of time at sea, have a better appreciation of how to operate, navigate and live in the environment.
The weekend started with a Friday night safety brief and an introduction to the safety and lifesaving equipment on board. For some people this was a refresher, for others the weekend was their first time at sea (in any capacity). The evening continued with an acquaint of the Hallberg Rassy 34, including the accommodation, how to use the heads (toilets) and how to transit around the vessel safely. Once this had been completed there was time for dinner where the team (of all ranks and rates) got to know each other better and to break down some barriers. On return to the vessel, there was some time to introduce the novice crew to the principles of basic passage planning ready for the next morning.
Saturday started with call the hands at 0700hrs and a swift but tasty breakfast. It was then straight to instruction to ensure we could make the tide. Some of the crew went to the upper deck receiving instruction on sail and rope handling, and the different roles they would be required to fulfil over the weekend. Others started passage planning and continue with navigation and VHF radio use instruction. The first challenge was to safely leave harbour. Following a leaving harbour brief all crew took up their positions, and we left under motor to a safe area within the Solent raise the sails for the first time. The novice crew found this a special moment as the engine is switched off and we were totally under quiet sail power. The day continued with ensuring everyone had a time at the helm; tracking our progress on the chart and operating the sails; all whilst completing a series of basic manoeuvres (such as tacking).
The next major serial was anchoring in Osbourne Bay, the first time circa 80% of the crew had conducted this task. It was not easy as the weather was fantastic and the bay was crowded with vessels and swimmers. None the less, it was completed smartly and safely and enabled some relaxed time for lunch and to review learning and look towards the rest of the afternoons plans. After leaving Osbourne bay the weather changed and the wind significantly picked up which presented different challenges, which all the crew took to well. A few hours later we made our way up Cowes Water for an evening berth. While alongside, before dinner, there was an opportunity for some of the crew who had never done any rowing to inflate the boat’s dingy and experience their first command!
Sunday brought another change in the weather, with limited wind, but significantly reduced visibility and constant drizzle punctuated by occasionally heavy showers. The crew attempted to make way under canvas for about an hour, but with little head way being made we had to resort to motoring to return towards Gosport. Nevertheless, the change in conditions presented new challenges and learning opportunities for the novice crew, especially around navigation with limited visibility. On return to Gosport all the hands (crew) worked hard to clean return to the boat to the same high standards we received it in.
HMS WILDFIRE would like to thank the Ulysses trust for the support which helped make this event possible and financially accessible to all.
Report by SLt Stock, expedition member