Lord Dannatt’s Round Britain Challenge Report by CCF Cadet Keane

Brompton Academy CCF were given the chance to bid for one of two places with full sponsorship worth £800 for a cadet to go on an eight-day sailing journey around the UK in August. The successful cadet Keane, was paired up with a veteran sailor and a team of cadets as part of the process, and this is his report of the voyage on the Lord Nelson. 

Preparation:

The adventure began as soon as I was offered the place to take part in the Lord Dannatt’s Round Britain Challenge by my amazing Contingent Commander Paula Knight. I was delighted by this brilliant opportunity to be able to experience life at sea, being able to make new friends, and learn amazing skills I couldn’t learn anywhere else. Once all of the consent forms had been completed, I set off to HMS President in London to meet the crew and veterans who I would be sailing with for the next ten days. 

Day 1:

On the first day, we stayed docked at the HMS President, to allow us to get a feel for the ship (Lord Nelson or as we all called it Nelly). We were introduced to the main crew who we would be sailing with us and helping us to learn new skills, which we would need for the trip ahead. We were put into groups with watch leaders, and paired up with a veteran for our group. Andy became my best friend by the end of the voyage. Once we had been introduced to everybody on board we then had to do some basic admin, sort out our bunks and get our uniform ready for the day ahead. 

Day 2:

Our voyage began as we set sail down the River Thames, under London Bridge, and out towards the sea. As we travelled down the river, the permanent crew hosted a couple of lessons explaining how to be a Helmsman when on watch, and how to set the sails ready for when we finally left the Thames. I learnt a whole new set of skills which were different to lessons at school. 

Day 3:

With no engines to help push us along, we finally got to put our new skills to work when we set the sails on the masts, relying completely on the wind. I learnt about traveling in different wind conditions; changing sails so we were not travelling too fast or heading in the wrong direction. This meant a lot of hard work as we were setting sails and putting them away at random points of the day. 

Day 4 and 5:

Making our way out into the sea, we approached Danish waters. Although we tried to avoid a storm that was currently effecting the UK, we still got hit, making the ship rock severely at angles of more than 37°, which made everybody feel extremely sea sick. At this point we were reminded again about health and safety on board; making sure to always wear our safety belts when on deck as it was extremely slippery as the ship rolled in the high seas. Over the next two days everybody was feeling ill and skipping meals. I was sick about fifteen times, but thankfully it did all blow over with everything returning back to normal. 

Day 6:

With morale on the rise once the storm had past, everyone was
back in full swing. We were taught how to climb the masts
correctly and safely. It was very exciting to have such amazing views of the sea and everybody below, as we learnt how to roll up the sails neatly. We were offered the opportunity to take part in a Level 2 BTEC qualification, which I decided to take part in order to gain this additional qualification for the future. 

Day 7:

We finally made it up the whole of the UK east coast to the outskirts of Scotland, where we decided to anchor for the day. As we approached the harbour by engine, we used our new skills to climb up the main mast and foremast and roll up the sails for the final time. In my opinion, this was one of my favourite experiences as I got to climb the masts and out onto the yards, which was both terrifying as well as a complete adrenaline rush. 

Day 8 and 9:

We pulled up the anchor and docked next to the HMY Britannia. I was honoured to be selected to go onto the HMY Britannia with some other cadets, which was a brilliant experience. After this we helped to stock up the ship with supplies for the next voyage. We then hosted a gathering for the sponsors of the Round Britain Challenge who came aboard to look around and talk to us about our experiences on the voyage. Finally, we were allowed off the boat for a couple hours to go and explore the outskirts of Edinburgh and to do some shopping. 

Day 10:

The last day was absolutely amazing as we all dressed up smart and made our way to Edinburgh Castle for our parade. Here we were able to experience the One o’clock Gun Salute, followed by a brilliant service in the castle’s Chapel in remembrance of the fallen during previous conflicts. After the ceremony had finished, we had to say our final goodbyes to our new friends, who became like family by the end of the voyage and this was very emotional. Then Andy and I left for the train station to make our way home. Overall, the Lord Dannatt’s Round Britain Challenge was the best experience of my life so far. Learning new skills, making new friends for life and just being able to participate in something I never thought I’d be able to do was just absolutely amazing.

I would like to thank my sponsors, the CCF for the grant and most importantly my Contingent Commander who gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to go on this wonderful trip that has truly changed my life.