Operation Solent Challenger

Cdt RSM Moule tells us about her sailing Adventure.

Operation Solent Challenger

10 October 2022

  • Cambridgeshire ACF
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All the cadets, crew and guests on Challenger 2.

From the 15th – 19th August, 18 cadets took part in Exercise Solent Challenger – a five-day national sailing expedition for Army cadets from all over the country with the Tall Ships Youth Trust. On the morning of the 15th, I took the train down to Portsmouth harbour where I walked to Gunwharf Quays. I was then greeted by CFAVs and members of the Tall Ships Youth trust where we were told which of the 72ft Yachts I would be on.

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The view on deck.

Once everyone had arrived and we got all our belongings on board, we all sat in the galley (kitchen) and completed ice breakers with the rest of the yacht crew we would be sailing with for the next five days. There were 8 other cadets, 2 CFAVs, and 4 experienced crew members including the skipper, who were all so friendly, and we all quickly gelled together. We were split into two watches which we would work with to complete our tasks, from cleaning, cooking and tidying to raising the sails and completing tasks on deck. That afternoon, we completed safety briefings and sailed to our first harbour which was Cowes, Isle of Wight, and we were all thrown into work on the deck which seemed daunting at first as I had never sailed before, but the crew were very knowledgeable and willing to help. It was our watch’s turn to cook dinner that evening, and we had great fun in the galley cooking chicken fajitas for everyone. After dinner, we had some free time before we all got into our hammocks for some sleep.

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Cooking in the galley.

Day two saw us up in good time, and having had breakfast, my watch was up on deck to preparing to set sail, which involved getting the sails out of the store and clipping them in ready to pull up, moving halyards around, bringing fenders in and tidying up. It was raining a fair amount, so we got into our wet weather gear and then set sail to our next destination. During the journey, we got the opportunity to climb a rope attached to the sail which overhung the side of the yacht whilst the ship was sailing at some speed. It was quite daunting, however it was a great experience! We then had our lunch and that afternoon got to practice tacking which is where the whole crew works together winching and feeding ropes to change the position of the sail so the boat moves in another direction. At first it was quite confusing but the teamwork and communication between the crew ensured we picked up the technique up quickly! We then reached our destination which was an anchorage in Studland Bay, not far from Bournemouth. As we had anchored down, during the night, we each had to take turns completing anchor watch to ensure that the boat was not moving drastically in the night. My shift was at 3am, and I noted down the coordinates of the ship, and kept an eye on them before returning to bed!

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RSM Moule climbs a rope overhanging the water.

On day three, we were up and ready to leave Studland at around 9am to travel to our next destination. Our watch was on tidy-up, so we completed our tasks and then went up on deck to enjoy the beautiful (but chilly!) ride. We were at an angle of between 30-40 degrees for quite a lot of it, so we had to ensure we clipped our harnesses on and sat on the high side of the boat! We had an amazing ride past the Needles (Isle of Wight) when we caught up with the other Challenger boat and were challenged to a race back to Lymington, our next harbour. With some skilful tacking and good leadership from our skipper, we managed to win the race with the entire whole crew blasting out Sweet Caroline as we enjoyed our victory. We docked in Lymington and rewarded for our hard work with a few hours of shore time to explore the town and enjoy some down time with the other cadets. After dinner, we all sat in the galley and played card games as a crew and then headed to bed as we were all pretty tired.

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Lymington Harbour

On day four, we woke up and prepared the deck, and then we each got the opportunity to climb the 33m mast. The view of the Isle of Wight and the New Forest was amazing and one that I will not forget! After this, we set sail to our next temporary anchorage just outside Osbourne House, and we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon, which also included some sailing theory to prepare us for the upcoming night navigation exercise. After dinner, we were split into pairs and each given a ‘leg’ to plan for the night nav, and had to complete a route card, which included some of the sailing theory we had learnt that afternoon. When it was dark enough, we lifted anchor and set sail for Portsmouth and completed our night nav, which was entirely led by the cadets, and we safely made it into the harbour at around 2300hrs, catching the beautifully lit harbour view on our way in. Once we had finished packing up, and had our debrief, we headed for bed at around 0030hrs.

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Coming into Portsmouth on the night nav exercise

Our last day was a little more relaxed and was mainly focussed on sorting out the boat for the next voyage and packing up. But little did we know that Jordan Wylie, a famous adventurer and ambassador for the ACF and the Deputy Chief of Staff for Army Cadets UK were going to turn up! Corporal Lily Miller (Beds&Herts ACF) and myself got to personally escort them to the boat and show them around, before engaging in conversation with them and talking to other members of the Army Cadet’s PR team. We then finished the trip off with a final debrief and talk from the special guests, and photos on the ships, before we said our goodbyes to everyone and I travelled home on the train.


With Jordan Wylie.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity thank everyone who made this trip possible. First to Lt Col Andy Lester and his team to organising this amazing opportunity for us. Next to Tall Ships Youth Trust and all of their experienced crew for making the expedition run so smoothly and so enjoyable! And finally to all of the adults of Cambs ACF, particularly Colour Stagg, Staff Irving, Major Annis and Mrs Knowles, who completed the paperwork and ensured I was prepared to take part in this adventure.

Text by Cadet RSM Sophie Moule.