A brief history of the Army’s Racing yacht.
The Army has a proud history of offshore racing dating back to the formation of the Army Sailing Association in 1947. Back then racing was contested on private yachts or those ‘requisitioned’ from Germany after the war.
Army crews have since taken part in a full range of racing including the challenging Whitbread Round the World Race, the Fastnet Race as well as the closer to home racing of Cowes Week and the various Solent inshore series. The Army boat is now a well respected competitor in the RORC.
Throughout the 1990s and the Army contested the Sigma 38 ‘Redcoat’ and were competitive. For the 6 years up to 2007 ‘Longbow’, a Prima 38, was the Army’s offshore racing yacht. The Prima 38 fleet was at one time effectively an unofficial national IRC Class 1 championship and the Army team achieved many successes, including winner overall and winner in offshore and inshore series. However the Prima design had been overtaken by technology and in order to remain competitive we needed a new yacht. The experience and the squad we had built with Longbow provided a solid foundation for the future British Soldier.
BRITISH SOLDIER 2008 -2012
The Army offshore team had 5 successful years campaigning its Archambault A40RC, commencing with the 2008 Spring Season. In May 2008, the Team was selected to represent GBR in the Commodores Cup, and on the offshore circuit, went on later that year to achieve 2nd overall in The RORC series, 3rd in IRC 1 and won the Alan Paul Trophy and the Haylock Cup. The 2009 season involved a period of regeneration but in 2010, after some arduous long distance races including Round Britain and Ireland and with over 100 soldiers involved, the Offshore Racing Team was chosen as Army Sports Team of the Year. In 2011 British Soldier competed in the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series: a series of races from the Caribbean up the east coast of the USA, plus a Transatlantic race and the Fastnet race. This Atlantic series had been designed for the world’s largest thoroughbred racing yachts and despite being the smallest yacht in the fleet, British Soldier finished a creditable 16th out of 26 and winner of IRC 2 in the RORC Caribbean 600 race. At the season’s end British Soldier was awarded the RORC trophy for Best Performance Overseas by a British Yacht and placed 3rd overall in IRC 2.
BRITISH SOLDIER II – 2013 – 2017
The new yacht, a J111, launched in April 2013 and retired in 2017 continued the theme of success for sailing soldiers. As with all yachts there was some consolidation and knowledge building needed to get the J111 and the crews up to speed and in 2015 British Solider again scooped the Haylock Cup for the best Service yacht in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s offshore series, which has included the usual weekend offshore races, as well as the prestigious Fastnet Race. Under the skipper Andy Hadfield BS came away with the Tilman Trophy and the Light Infantry Bugle in the tough 3 Peaks Yacht Race that year as well.
Throughout the bulk of the Afghanistan campaign British Soldier was the proud flagship for the charity Toe in the Water, committed to assisting the recovery of wounded injured and sick service personnel through the challenge of offshore sailing.
BRITISH SOLDIER III – 2017 –
2017 saw the highly successful J111 sold and a replaced with a refurbished X-41 yacht. The 2017 season was one of consolidation, while maximising the opportunity to get as may soldiers as possible racing. Another Haylock Cup win in 2017 was one of the highlights for the new yacht. British Soldier is widely known and respected throughout the inshore and offshore sailing fraternity, holing her own among many professional race crews which is testament to what offshore sailing offers for our officers and soldiers.