During the impeccable winter months of January, the Training Major for 75 Engineer Regiment Regt shuffled a warning order for Ex (Exercise) Solent Sapper across my desk. For those that are unaware, Ex Solent Sapper is the Corp of Royal Engineers annual Sailing flotilla held on the Solent and around the Isle of Wight. This annual gathering gives the Corp an ideal opportunity for Regiments to attend and pass on knowledge of sailing within crews and the flotilla. It can also introduce novice sailors to off shore sailing and qualify competent crew and day skipper through the RYA approved scheme. Having looked at this warning order and discussing with members of the regiment we soon discovered that we had enough interest to fill a Yacht with competent crew and undertake a Day Skipper course.
Wheels (Sails) in motion and full throttle ahead a financial plan was drafted and all avenues of funding where explored including the “Ulysses Trust” who were kind enough to assist us with a slight shortfall.
Day one saw the crew which consisted of an off-shore yacht master 4 competent crew members (Potential Day Skippers) and 1 novice, packing and checking the Yacht (Syrinx) and our home for the next week. All safety equipment food, and personal equipment loaded and packed we completed our first passage plan across to Cowes and with the wind at 12 Knots it was a great sail across.
Having spent the night in Cowes harbour cooking a delectable spaghetti bolognaise and preparing our passage plan for the next morning. Up bright and early and utilising the shower facilities as our next stop would be Newtown reserve for a few hours stop before completing our night sail down to the needles and then back to Yarmouth to anchor up on a buoy overnight.
The following day we sailed across to Lymington early morning and collected some supplies for the galley. If you have never sailed into Lymington I would thoroughly recommend it as it is a quintessential village of old England. After a quick spruce up and some lunch we set sail under the command of our Commanding officer for the Beaulieu River. This is another beautiful sail navigating intrepidly up the Solent and meandering up the river until we reached the famous Bucklers Hard where the Navy ships’ HMS Surprise and Scorpion were built in the 1700s’.
On the penultimate day, the Day skipper crew on Yacht Syrinx headed for Cowes as we had some VIP visitors flying in to see our progress and watch us sailing around the Solent. After a light lunch in Cowes we set sail for our destination to Port Solent. This is were we would meet up with the flotilla and present some prizes over some fine food and beverages.
The following morning was spent conducting some more passage planning and some theoretical navigational training before heading off down Portsmouth Harbour for our final sail before returning to JSASTC (Joint Services Adventure Sailing Training Centre) and completing the duty clean and handover of Syrinx.
Having completed RYA Day Skipper Syllabus over the week on the Solent three members where qualified as RYA ay Skipper and the Novice was awarded his competent crew.
“Having recently taken up sailing in the past 2 years I have had the opportunity to sail across the English Channel, along the south coast of England, around the Canary Islands and through the Swellies on the Menai straits. I would thoroughly recommend everyone to at least give sailing a go as you might be pleasantly surprised how great a sport it is. I have now been lucky enough to be qualified as an RYA day skipper on this expedition. I would like to thank 75 Engineer Regiment for allowing us the time to attend this and of course the REYC (Royal Engineers yacht Club) and Corp for all the organisation, our Instructor Maj Jim Edwards and finally The Ulysses Trust in assisting us to fun the expedition.”