Arriving late on Friday night to a wind and rain swept spit of land stretching into the solent, the 10-strong team of cadets began attempting to set up camp and unpack. High winds, driving rain and exposure to the elements made this an impossible task, however, and with midnight approaching the decision was made to sleep indoors for the night and try again in the light.
A 0500 hours wake up call (after another squadron had kindly rescued the team’s tents from blowing into the sea!) and a lot of packing later, the cadets were up, dressed and ready to start the day’s activities.
Meeting their instructor for the weekend, Jenny, the competition started immediately with a climbing challenge. Using Calshot’s impressively sized climbing wall, the team had to get to the top and ring a bell as quickly as possible, with their total aggregate score recorded as a score. An astounded Jenny was delighted with a time of just over 5 minutes, knocking the other teams out of the water!
Progressing on to an equally high challenge, the big swing, left hearts in mouths and fear in many of the cadets. Harnessed and strapped to a large metal bar, in pairs cadets were hoisted by their team mates to high above the ground and had to pull a cord to release themselves, swinging down at a huge speed and overlooking “the creek”, a large shallow tidal pool. Another impressive time was notched up and despite a few tears everyone (including staff!) managed to go straight to the top at the first time of asking.
After lunch was supposed to be the Outrigger challenge. However, due to high winds it was deemed unsafe and so replaced with a raft building exercise and race in the canoe rolling pool on site. Despite Newbury’s best efforts, their raft was pretty un-sailable and collapsed before the race had even started! Water piracy then ensued with both Newbury and Fordingbridge and Ringwood’s cadets trying to board each other’s raft and sabotage it (not that Newbury’s could get any worse!).
A quick shower and change of clothes later and after dinner was an orienteering course designed to get people moving round the site. Another average performance seemed to put the title in jeopardy, with day two needing to be exceptional to win.
The morning arrived with a short snowboarding session, just for fun. This was followed by a period in one of the few wooden velodromes in the country, one of which being used for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games! All cadets were introduced to track cycling, the lock-in shoes, the racing bikes and the methods for their use. They were then gradually introduced to the track, before getting to do a lap on the wooden surface, a real treat!
Time was short and so after a very brief lunch the cadets moved on to Archery, where they posted a very reasonable score of 240 out of 300. Racing to another hangar, the last activity of the weekend was a crate stack. In pairs, everyone had to use milk crates to get as high as possible. After hearing a rumour that the closest competitors had reached a highest point of 16 levels of crates, Newbury new the target to beat. With a magnificent effort, every single pair reached a minimum of 16 crates, with 2 cadets getting as high as 19 (and having their heads in the rafters as a result!).
Running over to the final parade, hearts were in mouths as the final scores were totted up. Announcing it was a close call, and with less than 10 points in it, 211 Squadron were declared victorious once again and will retain the Owl and Crescent Trophy for the second year running! The team was presented the trophy by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wing President Air Vice-Marshall Paul Luker CB OBE AFC RAF (Ret’d), who announced his pleasure at seeing all the cadets take part in all the competitions.
Pilot Officer Luke Pepperell, RAFVR(T) and officer-in-charge of Newbury’s team had this to say:
“It’s another fantastic victory for us again this year, and the cadets have loved every minute of it. We can’t wait to come back next year and hopefully win it again!”