Royal Navy sailors from Plymouth-based HMS Sutherland were given a heroes’ welcome when they won a race to beat the ship back to Plymouth from Scotland.
The five sailors have raised more than £3,500 for the Royal Navy/Royal Marine Charity by not only beating the ship back to HM Naval Base Devonport by land, but also by completing imaginative tasks along the 833 miles, set by the ship as it sailed south.
The triumphant team were given the charity challenge as a way of raising funds with the handicap of starting off without transport, phones or money and somehow surviving but still reaching their goal. They therefore, successfully used their survival instincts, wits, charm and leadership skills – all important attributes in the Royal Navy.
Waiting on the jetty as the ship arrived this morning were Master At Arms Dean Latham from Salford, Manchester, age 38; Petty Officer (Above Water Tactical) Russell Simpson from Plymouth, age 34; Leading Chef Brad Morton from Castleford, age 25; Engineering Technician (Marine Engineer) Steve Weaver from Droitwich age 27; and Able Rate (Warfare Specialist) David Grey from Rye age 29.
The five men were selected from the 180-strong crew for the event which began on Monday (April 29) while the ship left Scotland on Wednesday. They managed to impress enough businesses and individuals of the good cause they were collecting for to be given at least two vehicles for transport, all their meals and accommodation free of charge.
Team member Petty Officer Russ Simpson, from Plymouth, said: “It’s great to be back in Plymouth and to have beaten the ship to Devonport. This challenge was one of the best things I’ve done in the Navy. We were thrown different tasks each day out of the blue, which added to the excitement and pressure.
“We were constantly amazed and humbled by the generosity of the people we met on the way, both ordinary members of the public. This was a daunting challenge to start with only a ruck sack with no money or credit cards to pay for accommodation or food and none booked ahead. We relied on the goodwill of people and businesses we met and the rose to the occasion.
“It helped that we were doing this for the military. When people saw we were in the Navy and were raising money for people who need help in the Navy and Marines they were very keen to help us.’’
He thanked among others, One Call Direct which donated a van, the Master Mariners, Taunton Race Course, FlyBe and Enterprise Rental, Costa coffee, Ron Dewdney pasties, Waterstones, Greggs Bakers.
They had to prove all their tasks, one of which was to meet an MP – they met Helen Grant, Minister for Justice and Equality at the House of Commons. Additional tasks completed were a photo of them outside No’ 10 Downing Street, meeting the head of the Royal Navy (proven by leaving a specially struck ‘Sutherland Coin’ on his desk in his absence), meeting Lord Thurso (MP) of Sutherland and meeting a the first winning jockey and horse at Taunton Race Course.