Royal Navy revives days of sail with training on tall ship

For the first time in decades Royal Navy sailors are learning the art of seafaring on a traditional tall ship.

Over four months junior sailors are crewing TS Tenacious – giving them a unique insight into the days of sail and the chance to pick up key leadership skills.

The square rigger is running in and out of Portsmouth with Royal Navy sailors performing tasks and duties Nelson would recognise: from heaving and hauling lines to set the sails, to watchkeeping and steering.

The use of the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s Tenacious is helping to plug the gap left by the closure of the Navy’s command and leadership school in the Brecon Beacons due to the pandemic.

“In a difficult period for Royal Navy training due to the pandemic, the use of the Jubilee Sailing Trust has allowed us to continue to provide top quality core leadership and team training in a maritime context,” said Commander Adrian Coulthard from the Navy’s training organisation.

“It has also meant we have been able to maintain our training pipeline throughflow, while providing our trainees with early and very valuable experience – from maintaining watches to living and working in the challenging maritime domain.”

It was a lot of fun working hard in the rain in a team of people I had only met the day before. I feel it helped to develop my leadership skills massively and would definitely recommend anyone who gets the opportunity.

Aircraft Controller Able Seaman Joe Uzeta

For Royal Navy sailors, time on Tenacious is either a stepping stone to promotion or, for those undergoing training, their first time of living and working on a ship – including the challenges of overcoming seasickness and the challenges of cold.

As well as the teamwork required just to sail the ship, sailors also take part in a series of planning and practical leadership tasks under the watchful eyes of Tenacious’ regular crew.

And in the evenings sailors are encouraged to socialise, traditional fashion, with the week culminating in a social evening with home-spun sea shanties.

“It was a lot of fun working hard in the rain in a team of people I had only met the day before,” said trainee aircraft controller Able Seaman Joe Uzeta. “It was easy to get on with everyone and fall comfortably into a strong team.

“I feel it helped to develop my leadership skills massively and would definitely recommend anyone who gets the opportunity.”

Sub Lieutenant Rory McMillan from new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales said his week on the Tenacious “brought home how challenging life would have been in the age of sail. It’s a great environment to develop leadership, as strong teamwork is needed for almost all activity on board.”

His shipmate Sub Lieutenant Tom Hoskins added: “Sailing on the Tenacious was a great opportunity alongside the wealth of training it offered. Hats off to the crew for delivering the exercise in a safe and enjoyable environment.”

Tenacious, which gives people of all abilities the chance to sail in a tall ship, is normally used by businesses and civilian groups for leadership training and bonding, but hasn’t taken anyone to sea since the first Covid lockdown 12 months ago.

Patrick Fleming, Chief Executive of the Jubilee Sailing Trust, said his organisation was delighted to be working with the Royal Navy to provide a unique blend of training opportunities.

He continued: “This is a pioneering collaboration with the Royal Navy, providing a transformative tall ship training experience to naval trainees with officers and recruits aboard Tenacious, becoming a key part of the ship’s crew.

“We’ve seen first-hand how training aboard the Tenacious has an enormous impact our trainees, building confidence and resilience – as well as an important, specialist skill set for a future in the Royal Navy.”