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Challenger 2 – Army Cadets

By Kate Stewart - September 1st, 2023 | Posted in Voyager blogs No comments

We have two groups of Army Cadets on board Challengers 2 and 4 this week joining us for a seven-day voyage of Empowerment from Portsmouth to Caen, France and back.

This blog was written by those on board Challenger 2, check it out to find out more.

Day 1

Sunday 27

“Hurry up and wait”, a phrase heard often on Day 1. Late trains, rail strikes and festival traffic, but these were no qualms for the mighty crew, the mighty crew of Challenger 2. We said our farewells to our loved ones and were introduced to our new boat buddies for the week.

We set up the boat ready to set off for our trip over the Solent. Putting up the sails and preparing ourselves for the journey ahead.

As we sailed across the Channel, there was some slight troubles, mainly consisting of excessive seasickness (thank God for buckets) and getting used to life on board, with our spirits mostly intact.

We’d been split into two watches for the trip, in order to share duties and the like. The first night watch started at 21:00, and we then as groups took turns of three hours on, three off (to attempt some sleep).

By Robbie and Lexine.

Day 2

Monday 28

We continued with watch duties through the early hours of the morning, taking helm, huddling like penguins for warmth through the bitter night across the Channel and endless songs to stay awake. We were surprised we didn’t wake the others up at times.

After countless cups of tea suddenly… Land ahoy!!!!!!!!! France was in sight. Making steady progress towards Ouistreham, we reached our first checkpoint, which relieved all. Sails stowed away and folded down, ready to motor into the first lock.

Travelling down the canal we passed under iconic Pegasus Bridge, a military landmark, very exciting to see raised for our Challengers!! Gliding through, we continued along the canal to the next bridge, which swung open for us. We then came to the final bridge, which stood in our path. This bridge we had to pass under, and we all thought our mast would hit it, but with expert skill we negotiated it safely.

We moored up to settle for the evening, while the staff sorted out tricky French Customs.

Fajitas tonight! Bringing out our inner Ratatouille and listening to the theme while cooking. All in all, a very successful day on Challenger 2!

By Jack and Lydia.​

Day 3

Tuesday 29

Well rested from a night of good sleep, free of watches and away from the sway of the ocean and with spirits high, we had a healthy choice of breakfast, granola, fruit and yogurt.

After breakfast, we set off on the five-mile walk to Pegasus Bridge for a taste of exped. After taking some photos, we crossed over to visit the museum – a fascinating yet humbling experience. Over to the iconic café, we headed for soft drinks and for some authentic crepes.

The TSYT crew brought the yachts up to the bridge, saving us the walk back. We set off up the canal to Ouistreham. We moored the yacht in Ouistreham Marina then headed off to Le Gran Bunker, for a brief, but interesting visit.

Finally, we headed back to the Marina for dinner and a well-needed wash.

By Robbie and Jack.

Day 4

Wednesday 30

After we departed the pontoon in the marina at Ouistreham, we then went through the locks and out to sea. We headed north west to clear the Pointe du Hoc, and used all three of our sails to get out as far as possible.

During this time, we prepared and ate breakfast and lunch. Then, as we continued our journey west, we received a call from Challenger 4 to say they needed help, so we changed our heading to move towards their position. It was then we realised that they’d had a little silly billy moment and decided to sail over a lobster pot and got the cordage bound around their propeller shaft and this resulted in the loss of thrust and control of their motor and propeller.

With the tide turning against us, Challenger 4 was unable to reach port in a reasonable time and without assistance. So we took the initiative to bring down our sails and throw them a tow line.

This incident resulted in Challenger 2 (our vessel) towing Challenger 4 the rest of the way into the port of Cherbourg for the night. We were originally going to reach the port at roughly 17:00, but it is now it is 21:12 and we still aren’t in the port. We are estimating arrival at Cherbourg at 23:00. We are then going to start our preparation for the next day of work.

By Jono and Zac.​

Day 5

Thursday 31

We woke up in Cherbourg Marina after a long day’s journey yesterday. For most of itm we towed the second boat, the prop of which had got a rope from a lobster pot marker wrapped around it.

We spent our time clearing up the boat after an eventful week, still unsure whether Challenger 4 was in tip-top shape. After we had finished cleaning, we sat in the saloon and were taught a lesson by our Mate, Hugo, about the names of different parts of a sail and how the wind affects the angle a sail needs to be.

Just after 13:00, we had lunch and then we made our way out to the local shopping centre Carrefour. We had a nice time picking out new French snacks to try, we also both tried Crème Brule for the first time. It was difficult, but we tested out our French speaking skills on the cashier, but it didn’t go well, as she just looked at us confused.

We then came back to the boat and had to clear customs at 18:00. After clearing customs, we learnt that the diver had removed the pot and rope from around the prop of Challenger 4 and it was OK to continue. We then helped cooked dinner, which is enjoyable, as we now all get on really well and have a laugh with it.

We finished the day off by having showers before rowing the dingy around the marina, which is part of the syllabus to achieve our RYA Competent Crew qualification.

By Maddie and Liddy.

Day 6

Friday 1

With an early 06:30 reveille, we left the Cherbourg Marina and hoisted the sails before setting off on our journey back to Portsmouth Harbour. Having a “late” breakfast that consisted of croissants and pain au chocolat, it was nice to finally be on an open ocean that didn’t want us dead. Flat calm waves, sun shinin’, we were chilin’. All until, Hugo thought it was appropriate to teach us about flares and unneeded advanced sail trim (just kidding – we appreciated it, just not at the time).

After lunch, a hearty mix of cheese, beans, tuna sweetcorn and potatoes, the Skipper decided it would be the perfect time to swap out the Yankee 3 sail for the Yankee 1, which consisted of waking half the crew up, getting them all on deck (with lifejackets – they still forget), and struggling for 30 minutes to swap them out. Thea decided she had the right to trample everyone in getting the sail away, completely uncaring as to our feelings on the matter. To be fair, she did get the sail away fast and efficiently, despite the damage to our self-esteem, being nothing more than obstacles in her way.

Cleaning up lunch and generally having a good time below deck, one half of the crew (and Hugo, of course) neglected to inform the ones below that there were dolphins swimming by the boat. This later caused an uproar – “Have you written about the dolphins” Hugo said, with a smile. sitting behind us, right as we were writing the previous paragraph. We are deeply torn in our hearts; for we really wanted to see dolphins.

Half way across the Channel we managed to catch the wind properly and began sailing, even reaching 10.4 knots. This meant that we all had the opportunity to sit on the high side of the boat and truly sail, for the first time all week. Maddie and Lexine were near the bow and got soaked through before they swapped out for Mirren, Jonathan and Zach. The three of them proceeded to sit, sing and shout for the next 20 minutes, while getting absolutely drenched. Thea aided in this by steering between port and starboard at the helm, and it was also here she hit the 10.4 maximum we reached today.

Once they’d dried off, a mix of both the watches began to prepare for dinner, of which was spaghetti bolognaise, we sailed right to the entrance of Portsmouth Harbour, where we dropped the sails. We then proceeded to Gosport Marina right on time (not). Only getting there at 21:00, we spent the first hour and a half cleaning before we were finally allowed off to the shower facilities. Waking up at 07:00 tomorrow morning, we’ve got a supposedly very busy day of cleaning and meeting people from both TSYT and the ACF.

By Mirren and Thea.​

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