A CHESTER army officer and a team of soldiers sailed through an overseas coastal challenge.

Former Christleton High School student Major Ian Large, sailing officer with Germany based 7th Armoured Brigade, took 40 novice sailors on a gruelling mission to help them gain their Coastal Skipper qualification.

Battling through huge waves, bad weather and sleepless nights, they faced a tough challenge during the task, dubbed Exercise Rats Breeze, in the port town of Kiel in Northern Germany.

The regatta tested the soldiers’ physical and mental strength and pushed endurance levels to the limit. Forced to live and sleep in cramped conditions on the boats, Major Large made sure the soldiers got the most out of their experience in terms of training and military benefits.

Exercise Rats Breeze, held last month, covered hundreds of miles around the Danish and German coasts and is considered an important opportunity for soldiers to gain essential military skills such as leadership, map reading, team working and working within a strict command structure.

Major Large, 37, said: “The first day we did 104 miles through the night to prove I was competent at sailing in the pitch black – just trying to avoid the huge tankers that use this water way. The speed of the big cargo ships can really take you by surprise.

“I have learnt so much in terms of practical skills and confidence. We have some great coaches here at Kiel and I have become a much more confident sailor both at day and at night.”

He added:“Everyone has worked outside their comfort zone which will stand them in good stead for an operational deployment where conditions may be a lot more difficult. We have given these guys a great experience and the opportunity of quality training where they could learn something, enjoy it and want to come back again. Hopefully they will come back in the future and will want to help new people learn to sail.”