|British Soldier All About Duty to Country and Sailing|
NEWPORT, R.I., USA (June 7, 2011) – When it comes to serving one’s country, the crew competing in the Transatlantic Race 2011 aboard British Soldier (U.K.) could not be more dedicated. While most have returned from active duty only within the last year, all eight members have completed army tours in Afghanistan within the last 24 months, and two will be heading back there after undertaking a 2,975 nautical mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean. For British Soldier, the Transatlantic Race 2011, co-organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron, New York Yacht Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and Storm Trysail Club, starts June 26 from Newport, R.I., and delivers the team back to home soil in the U.K. sometime in mid-July. (Two subsequent “staggered” starts for the race are scheduled for June 29 and July 3 to adjust for the relative speeds of 30 entered boats – ranging in size from 40 to 289 feet – and allow for a tighter finish among them.)
“It’s all about putting a bunch of guys in a demanding situation, out of reach of immediate outside assistance, where they must work as a team in arduous conditions in order to succeed,” said 47-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Bate, who serves as skipper of British Soldier. “That is the ethos of adventurous training; it also provides some excitement and reward in between other demanding duties.”
Bate, who has completed operational tours in Iraq (two), Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo and is trained as a tank commander, explained that British Soldier, an Archambault 40 bought by the Army Sailing Association in 2008, is regularly sailed by a squad comprised of approximately 100 soldiers on return from operational tours, offering them a chance to race offshore when on leave or between assignments. A number of injured soldiers also sail British Soldier as part of their rehabilitation. The yacht is not publicly funded but is supported by generous sponsors (currently Fujitsu), soldiers’ own contributions through the Army Sports Lottery, and some charitable trusts. (www.sailarmy.co.uk)
“We have a core of gladiators, but otherwise it’s a bit of a mix,” said Bate, explaining that 48 soldiers have raced with him recently, and he had a largely different crew aboard for both the RORC Caribbean 600 and the Annapolis to Newport Race, both distance races that – along with the TR 2011 – are part of the inaugural Atlantic Ocean Racing Series that British Soldier has also entered.
“Most of them haven’t done a great deal [of ocean racing],” said Bate, who noted that nevertheless, in 2010, the Army Offshore Team was named Services Sports Team of the Year. “It’s a bit scary for a lot of people actually. You are putting a team of people out there in a demanding situation, so you learn to cope and work as a team and that’s why we are out there. Sailing is demanding, frightening and awesome great fun.”
As for Bate, he has raced a wide variety of yachts from his own International Dragons and Cornish Shrimper up to 153’ classic yachts. He started racing on an IOR ¾ tonner in the early 1980s, and after joining the Army in 1987, he competed in the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race on British Defender and has also sailed the Rolex Fastnet Race eight times. This will be his fourth Atlantic crossing.
“In 2008 British Soldier had a tremendous first season and was selected to represent Great Britain in the Rolex Commodore's Cup,” said Bate. “On the offshore circuit, she achieved second overall among 250 yachts in the RORC Offshore Series, and we achieved the same overall result in the series again last year (2010), after races such as the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.”
Other crew members are Captain David Holdsworth (age 36),originally an Army engineer completing a tour in Afghanistan in 2010 and now a cardiologist based in Oxford,who has completed two Rolex Fastnet Races and a total of 20,000 miles of cruising and offshore racing in the last four seasons; Second Lieutenant Martin Livingston, a former Royal Navy officer of seven years who qualified as a doctor in March, who haslimited ocean racing experience but has completed around 4,500 cruising and racing miles; Lance Corporal Terence (Polly) Parsons (41), who joined the Royal Engineers in May 1990 as a Combat Engineer and was injuredin Bosnia, sails as a form of rehabilitation and has logged approximately 5,000 “mostly-offshore” miles; Captain Oli Donaghy (31), who is returning from Afghanistan (16 Air Assault Brigade) just in time to start the TR 2011 and has completed roughly 7,000 miles of racing, including three Rolex Fastnet campaigns; Second Lieutenant Phil Caswell (24), commissioned in 2010 into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, who has sailed 18,000 racing, cruising, military and youth sail training miles, and is making his first Atlantic crossing; Gunner Clarke Small (28), new to the Royal Artillery after completing basic training in April 2011, started sailing at age 16 in his native South Africa and has since completed a circumnavigation, several offshore passages and the Heineken Capeto Rio Race and Rolex Sydney Hobart Race; and Captain Richard Hall, who joined the British Soldier program at its start in 2008, is currently posted with the Army Training Regiment Bassingbourn to train new recruits and will shortly return to an engineer regiment for a second Afghan tour (his first was in 2010).
British Soldier, like several other entries in the TR 2011, is competing in the first-ever Atlantic Ocean Racing Series (AORS), which requires that entrants compete in the TR 2011 plus two other events selected from the now completed Pineapple Cup - Montego Bay Race and RORC Caribbean 600, the Annapolis to Newport Race (June 3); and the upcoming Rolex Fastnet Race (August 14); Biscay Race (September 11-12) and Rolex Middle Sea Race (October 22). Each race is weighted equally in overall series scoring with the exception of the TR 2011, which is weighted 1.5 times.
Having finished first in class in the RORC Caribbean 600, British Soldier was just over 100 miles from the finish of the Annapolis to Newport Race at press time, and after the TR 2011 will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Biscay Race if all goes as planned; however, being on “active duty” has its consequences. “I’m, in fact, active enough that my office wants to send me back to Afghanistan at the end of July for nine months!” said Bate.
There are 30 entries total in the TR 2011, with the U.S. fielding 14 teams, Germany six, the U.K. four, and China, Italy, Lithuania, Monaco, Saint Barthelemy and South Africa one each.
Sponsors of the TR 2011 are Rolex, Thomson Reuters, Newport Shipyard, Perini Navi, and Peters & May.
More about the Transatlantic Race 2011
More About the Sponsors
Thomson Reuters – Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. It combines industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial, legal, tax and accounting, healthcare and science and media markets, powered by the world's most trusted news organization. With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, Minnesota, Thomson Reuters employs 55,000 people and operates in over 100 countries. Thomson Reuters shares are listed on the Toronto and New York Stock Exchanges (symbol: TRI). www.thomsonreuters.com
Newport Shipyard – Newport Shipyardis unquestionably the center of New England sailing action and this year is no exception with the classic J boats from the 1930s, the Transatlantic Race 2011 and the 25th anniversary of the Bucket. For the most glamorous yachts this side of the Med, downtown dockage, lifts, a dedicated workforce, and every convenience from Belle's Cafe to a gym, visit www.NewportShipyard.com
Perini Navi – Perini Navi is leader in the design and manufacture of blue-water sailing yachts. Famous for their revolutionary automatic sail handling systems and for their unique aesthetics, Perini Navi yachts are among the most celebrated vessels in the world. The company was established in 1982 thanks to the intuition of its founder, Fabio Perini. His great passion for the sea gave him the idea of creating a new breed of sailing yacht, one that could be handled by a single person thanks to a revolutionary sail management system, which is today the state of the art of sailing. www.perininavi.com
Peters & May – Leading global marine logistics specialist Peters & May ships over 8,000 boats annually worldwide, by air, sea and road. Peters & May offers transportation solutions for any size of yacht and is the preferred logistics provider of many of the world’s premier events and yacht racing teams, transporting yachts, equipment, containers and masts to all international destinations. www.petersandmay.com
(Full Roster follows)
TR 2011 Roster of Entries
Ambersail, Simonas Steponavicius, Vilnius, Lithuania
Organizing Club Contacts: