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RFA Tanker Wave Knight returns home after 13 month Atlantic deployment

13 July 2017
After 13 months patrolling the North and South Atlantic - tackling drug traffickers, hosting Prince Harry and supporting Britain's effort to win the America's Cup - RFA Wave Knight today returned to Portland.

The tanker served as Britain's Atlantic Patrol Ship, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, but briefly in the South with a visit to the Falklands, as the vessel clocked up more than 64,000 miles - more than twice around the globe - visiting two dozen different ports in the process.

The ship left the UK last summer with three missions: to fly the flag in Britain's overseas territories and beyond, provide assistance in the wake of any humanitarian disaster such as earthquake or hurricane, and support the international operation trying to prevent the flow of drugs to the USA and Europe.

And she accomplished all three tasks: she hosted Prince Harry for a successful royal tour of the Leeward and Windward Islands last autumn, and paid a rare visit to Cuba in February when her crew paid their respects at the graves of Commonwealth war dead in Havana's Colon cemetery.

Her Lynx helicopter and specialist disaster relief teams weighed in to help Bahamians in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, providing technical support and clearing roads. The ship then made a bee-line for Bermuda following Hurricane Nicole, although thankfully it caused relatively little damage to the island.

the stuff of legends: drugs busts, disaster relief, defence diplomacy from Caribbean to the Southern Ocean, flagship for the America Cup and even hosting Prince Harry

Rear Admiral Alex Burton, Commander UK Maritime Forces

On the drug interdiction front, the Lynx was indispensible in a £40m cocaine bust; a Royal Marines sniper brought the Go-Fast's journey to an abrupt halt by wrecking its engine, allowing US Coast Guard to seize 11 tonnes of narcotics and arrest the crew.

Most recently, the tanker provided a large grey backdrop for the opening ceremony to the America's Cup sailing event in Bermuda, where former Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie was bidding to lift yachting's greatest -and most elusive - prize, the America's Cup; sadly, his boat was knocked out in the heats by the eventual winner Team New Zealand.

"It's been a highly-successful deployment which has demonstrated the great versatility both of Wave Knight and her ship' company," said her Commanding Officer Capt Simon Herbert RFA.

"They're drawn not just from the RFA but the Royal Navy and Royal Engineer Commandos and they've been instrumental in the ship's successful support to defence engagements in both the North and South Atlantic."

With the crew rotating every three to six months, the tanker's return to Dorset lacked the emotion of a typical naval homecoming and cheering families - but she was welcomed back by Rear Admiral Alex Burton, Commander UK Maritime Forces, who described her achievements over the 13-months away as:

"the stuff of legends: drugs busts, disaster relief, defence diplomacy from Caribbean to the Southern Ocean, flagship for the America Cup and even hosting Prince Harry. All done with the style, panache and gritty determination that typifies the Royal Fleet Auxiliary."

Her place on Caribbean patrol has been taken by amphibious support ship RFA Mounts Bay; the two traded places in Fort-de-France, Martinique.

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