HMS Illustrious is racing home!

Horse racing night onboard HMS Illustrious on the way back to Portsmouth
Horse racing night onboard HMS Illustrious on the way back to Portsmouth
HMS Duncan has returned to Portsmouth after spending three months in the Mediterranean Picture:  L/Phot Louise George

HMS Duncan returns to Portsmouth after three months away at sea

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NORMALLY a helicopter carrier’s hangar houses the ship’s aircraft and equipment.

But you would be forgiven for thinking this one more closely resembles the Ascot Racecourse.

Nikki Bodkin had her head shaved''Picture: L(Phot) Nicky Wilson

Nikki Bodkin had her head shaved''Picture: L(Phot) Nicky Wilson

On their last Saturday night at sea before returning home to Portsmouth tomorrow, sailors on board HMS Illustrious held their own night at the races.

The charity horse racing night took place in the cavernous hangar, which had been transformed by the Warrant Officers and Chief Petty Officers Mess.

In the spirit of charity, Writer Nikki Bodkin had her head shaved on the night to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Nikki decided to raise money for the charity after members of her family and close friends were lost or diagnosed with cancer.

She said: ‘Seeing my loved ones struggle with being diagnosed with cancer inspired me to raise money for Cancer Research. I’d been thinking about doing it for a while and had resolved to shave my hair off last summer.

‘It’ll take some getting used to and my family are in for a bit of a shock.’

Nikki’s hair is being donated to the Little Princess Trust to be made into a wig.

The ship raised £877 for the cancer charity, and the night at the races was also an opportunity for the ship to hold its deployment raffle.

Donated prizes included a Peugeot 208 car, a motorbike, flights to holiday destinations, an iPad, and tickets to Six Nations rugby fixtures.

The big winner of the night was Chief Petty Officer Nick Brindley, who won the car.

He said: ‘I am very pleased and very surprised to have won the car.

‘I was completely stunned to hear my name being read out.

‘It really was the last thing I expected.’

In 24 hours the ship had sold 2,000 tickets, contributing to the money raised for charity.

As reported in The News, HMS Illustrious returns to Portsmouth tomorrow at around 12.30pm.

The ship was due to return home before Christmas, but was diverted to the Philippines to help out after Typhoon Haiyan struck the islands.

Sailors spent around three weeks providing food, clean water, and shelter to those affected.

They also went ashore to repair damaged infrastructure and provide medical aid.