Lone Yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur had some unexpected company as she headed southwards in mid-Atlantic in her bid to make the fastest time for a single-handed round-the-world voyage. Just two degrees north of the Equator she met up with Royal Navy frigate HMS Iron Duke and Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker RFA Gold Rover.
The two ships were heading northwards from Brazil, and they had been carefully monitoring Ellen's progress since she left France and have also been updating her website with weather reports.
Yesterday afternoon (Monday 6 December) HMS Iron Duke launched her Lynx helicopter with the Commanding Officer, Commander Peter Carden embarked to make initial contact with Ellen's boat, B&Q, confirming the RN's and RFA's presence in the area. Lt Glyn Owen, the Flight Commander asked how she was progressing. She replied that the going had been slow overnight. He then went on to inform her that the winds were strong and favourable to the south.
When the yacht appeared in sight of the ships, the crews of both ships took this unique opportunity to offer her full support, wishing her the best of luck in breaking the solo around the world record attempt. Iron Duke and Gold Rover closed to within 1000 yards either side of the yacht with many of the ships' company on the upper deck taking photographs and admiring the courage of Ellen, the yacht she was sailing and the technology she has onboard.
Commander Carden enjoyed a conversation with Ellen during which she sounded in high spirits, full of good morale and almost overwhelmed by "the unique experience" of two warships escorting her south with a helicopter in the air circling the convoy. Topics of conversation included yacht and ship technology, life on the ocean wave, Hull, her last visit to the Falkland Islands and her passage to date. The Captain of Iron Duke said, as a fellow seaman, he was "full of admiration for what she was doing, sailing on her own, spending long, long periods at sea and braving the southern oceans".
HMS Iron Duke is currently returning to her home port, Portsmouth via Lisbon, due back just before Christmas. She had only recently handed over her duties as the Atlantic Patrol Ship (South) to HMS Gloucester. RFA Gold Rover is remaining on station in the South Atlantic, in support of HMS Gloucester.
Source: Navy News.