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HMS Westminster's sailors take to the pistes at Alpline Championships

HMS Westminster competes at RN Alpine Championships
8 March 2016
A group of sailors from HMS Westminster recently took part in the Royal Navy Alpine Championships in France while their ship continues to undergo a major refit in Portsmouth.

The championships, based in Tignes, encourage sailors and marines to participate and compete in challenging snow sports. Four members of the now reduced Ship's Company seized the chance to get out of the office and explore the mountain for the week. 

The team from Westminster consisted of three skiers, Lieutenant Commander Dave Lee (Weapon Engineering Officer), Lieutenant Nick Southall (Operations Officer) and Lieutenant Jen Taylor (Navigating Officer) and one snowboarder Lieutenant Commander Tim Ciaravella (Marine Engineering Officer).

On day one, despite the significant inter-discipline banter, the group hit the slopes, to explore the vast Espace Killy skiing area. Once the team had found their ‘skiing legs’ again, a couple of days of instruction preceded the Service level competitions. 

The championships have diversified over the last few years to include a wider variety of events including ski and boarder cross, slope style, and snowboard parallel slalom whilst still continuing with the traditional slalom, GS and Super G.

The differing competitions and seemingly coded names led to a bit of confusion as to what was involved, namely one of the crew opting for slope style without fully appreciating the level of aerial jumps and tricks required. The events were chosen and the team gave it a go.

Whilst the racing was demanding and designed to test skill and commitment, it provided a novel experience and a great opportunity to have the whole piste on which to play. 

A particular highlight was the Ski Sunday them tune blaring out at the top of the starting gate of the GS 'A' race. Nick Southall said 'it was a great opportunity to feel like Tim Ligety for the day.'

The racing was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone and success was encountered in a number of races with Tim Ciaravella making it through the heats in the snowboard parallel slalom and Jen Taylor winning bronze medals in the non-expert category for both the GS 'A' and the Super G.

When not racing or under instruction there was time to explore the mountains, testing skills on challenging black runs, top to bottom cruises lined by trees and all out speed contests. Attempting to reach top speed down empty runs Dave Lee took 1st place by just 0.2 Km/h. 

Entertainment was also sought from the few smaller jumps and fresh powder on the piste sides for the resident snow boarder.  Of course a healthy amount of Vin Chaud at the legendary La Folie Douce became a daily ritual before the last run of the day back to the accommodation. 

The team are grateful for the RNWSA’s organisation of the Alpine Championships; the trip was a huge success enabling new skills to be learned and old skills to be honed. It is hoped they can return next year providing the championships do not fall while the ship is at sea!

HMS Westminster is being currently being fitted with the Royal Navy's latest missile system, Sea Ceptor, and is due to return to the operational fleet later this year.

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