The RAF sailing team racing J/109 Red Arrow win the day at Cowes

The RAF sailing team racing the J/109 Red Arrow at Cowes this week have been notching up some respectable results including a first place on the water today, and third and second respectively on the first two days.

They are also flying the flag for the Benevolent Fund – the RAF’s official welfare charity (this year celebrating its 90th anniversary) and are currently in line to improve on last year’s eighth place overall.

The team onboard Red Arrow this week represents a cross section of today’s RAF, many of whom are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans including Squadron Leader Matt Carter. Carter was awarded the Military cross in 2007 after two engagements; the first in a raid on a Taliban leader’s compound, the second after leaping 15ft from a helicopter directly into a firefight. He will also be heading back to Afghanistan again at the end of the year.

In the meantime Carter, who is currently enjoying a break from deployment, explained how sailing plays such an important role in not only helping to promote core values of the RAF, but also in helping RAF personnel prepare for, and recuperate from, active service.

“The sort of jobs we do are very stressful. Heading out to places like Afghanistan is very dangerous with a high risk of loss of life. RAF competitive sailing at Cowes Week for example allows us to forget about that completely for the one week we’re here, and really focus on competing and doing the best we can. It allows us to vent frustration, particularly when we return from the terrors of these extreme places, and provides a good transition phase between war fighting and competitive sport.”

With their best result of the week recorded today, Red Arrow’s skipper -Wing Commander Simon Ling – commented on how the team’s intensive sail training is really starting to pay off. “It is fair to say that all the training we put in, is starting to be reflected in our results now, and I think we’re starting to establish ourselves more at the front end of the fleet. It is difficult for us however, because all the guys in our team are working hard on operations so we have to target which events are priority. It’s a very competitive fleet, we’re competing against those who sail regularly together week in week out, so consistency is always a problem for us.”