HMS Queen Elizabeth's departure from Portsmouth has been delayed until next week

CONCERNS over strong wind prompted the navy to postpone the sailing of HMS Queen Elizabeth from Portsmouth today.

By Tom Cotterill
Friday, 18th September 2020, 1:17 pm

The aircraft carrier has already faced several days of delays after a small number of the crew tested positive for coronavirus last week.

Sailing had been postponed twice before due to Covid-19 infections on the ship, once in April and more recently earlier this month.

The £3.1bn warship and its 1,700 embarked crew had been due to sail on Wednesday but the navy said changing weather conditions had altered this plan.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth departs from Portsmouth after ship's crew is tested for Covid-19 on Wednesday 29 April 2020. Pictured: HMS Queen Elizabeth passes the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth . Picture: Habibur Rahman

The ship had been ready to leave this afternoon. However, a decision was taken – less than an hour before she was set to leave Portsmouth Naval Base – to scrub today’s voyage.

The Royal Navy cited concerns over a strong easterly wind as the cause of the postponement.

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A spokesman for the HMS Queen Elizabeth said the ship was ‘ready in all respects to sail’ for her next training exercise.

‘Unfortunately due to the high easterly winds, it is not safe to navigate the gap (out of Portsmouth Harbour),’ the ship said on its Twitter account.

‘We remain under sailing orders, for a weather change.’

The 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier is now earmarked to set sail from her home city on Monday afternoon.

The change of plan comes just days after it was revealed that about 100 sailors on board the ship were self-isolating after ‘fewer than 10’ of the crew tested positive for Covid-19 this week.

Those who have tested positive have been taken off the ship while those who had been in close contact are in quarantine on board.

The navy previously said that the ‘vast majority’ of those quarantined would be released from isolation today, having completed 14 days from when their colleagues tested positive.

A spokesman said: ‘Retesting the ship’s company has confirmed a number of additional positive cases.

‘Those individuals have been removed from the ship and the remaining ship’s company continue to follow PHE guidelines.’

HMS Queen Elizabeth next stint at sea will take place around Scotland, where she will join a task group of warships, made up predominantly of forces from the UK.

A number of American and British F-35 stealth jets will embark on the aircraft carrier from RAF Marham while she conducts training in the North Sea.

The training is the final test for ship and crew before their first operational deployment early next year.

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