THEY have sailed the seven seas, visited 15 different countries and even survived major storms.
Now 13 months on and 35,000 nautical miles later, two armed forces yachts have returned to Gosport from their round-the-world voyage.
Hundreds of well-wishers gathered at Gosport Harbour on Saturday to welcome back crew from the adventurous sailing yachts, which were part of training mission Exercise Transglobe run by Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre.
HMS TC Adventurer and HMS TC Discoverer both set off from Gosport on July 25 last year and since then a total of 396 servicemen and women have helped crew both ships as they travelled around the globe, including navigating round the South Pole. Out of the 396 crew, 107 were sailing novices, having never set foot on a yacht before.
Lt Col Frank Cannon, Army Project Officer, said: ‘The expedition is about taking them out of their comfort zones and challenging them in order to prepare them for operations.
‘Some people love it and some hate it, but usually no-one regrets doing it as it’s a life-changing experience.’
The expedition consisted of 13 different stages, with different teams of 15 taking over at each stage. Adventurer was jointly manned by RAF and Royal Navy personnel, while Discoverer was crewed by the Army.
The 72ft challenger yachts visited 38 harbours around the world including, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Sydney and New York. The final leg was from Halifax, in Canada, back to Gosport.
Lance Corporal James Turner was on board Discoverer for Leg 8, the longest and most dangerous trip from New Zealand to Uruguay. The novice sailor said: ‘There were times when it was really rough and difficult but you just get on with it. It was an epic leg around Cape Horn and overall it has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’
For RAF Cadet Emily Simister, 19, from Leeds, the expedition was her first time away from home.
She said: ‘It has been amazing and I’ve made some really good friends. Sailing through the storm was the most challenging part, but also my favourite because we got to experience what real sailing is like.
‘I am glad to be back now though as I’ve missed proper Yorkshire tea.’