Submariners get in ship-shape during patrol

Submariners on board HMS Vigilant undertook a unique challenge recently when they tested their fitness during deployment.

Although on patrol beneath the waves for almost 14 weeks, the ship’s company stayed fit by holding a series of competitions when off-duty.  

Assuming the role of sports officer was Chief Petty Officer (CPO) David Bathgate, who led the crew in organising a rowing competition, a triathlon event and a 'Fitbrit' challenge, inspired by Men’s Health magazine.  

“People take part in sports all around the world in many different and strange locations,” said CPO Bathgate.  “I’d argue though that deep below the ocean is probably one of the most unique locations.

“The submariner’s life on board has traditionally been seen as a sedentary one, consisting of the routine of standing watch, eating and sleeping.  However, in the modern Royal Navy the ship’s company need to remain alert and capable of rising to any tactical or emergency situation at any time both during the day or at night.  To do this successfully we must maintain a high level of physical and mental fitness.” 

With the full support of HMS Vigilant’s Commanding Officer, Commander Dan Martyn, the crew began with the 'Fleet 50 x 1K Row'.  

The competition is designed for submarines and ships with a crew of over 101 people and consists of a team of 50 individuals, each of whom have to row 1 kilometre each in as fast a time as possible. 

Dotted around the submarine, occupying the rare patch of spare space, are various pieces of exercise equipment, including two Concept II Rowers.

People take part in sports all around the world in many different and strange locations. I’d argue though that deep below the ocean is probably one of the most unique locations

Chief Petty Officer David Bathgate, sports officer HMS Vigilant

The competition was fierce with HMS Vigilant vying for the Montague Cup, donated by Concept II Ltd.   

Vigilant’s overall time was three hours, 34 seconds, with the fastest time recorded by Sub Lieutenant William Child, who finished his 1K row in an incredible three minutes, six seconds.  

Next up was the submarine’s own version of the triathlon.  This consisted of a five kilometre run, a five kilometre row, followed by a ten kilometre cycle.  

Eighteen submariners took part in this event, competing for the first prize of a framed HMS Vigilant embroidered plaque.  

The winner was Lieutenant Commander Gary Carpenter, Weapons Engineering Officer on board, who recorded a time of one hour, one minute, just two seconds faster than Lieutenant Gareth Griffiths, the Tactical Systems Officer.  

Finally, 38 members of the ship’s company tested their mettle during the “Fitbrit” challenge.  Run by Men’s Health magazine, the challenge usually consists of eight exercises done back to back against the clock to test strength, speed, power and endurance.

The crew stayed as faithful as possible to the original, with a few modifications, given the limits of the exercise equipment on board.  

However, a snap exercise meant that activity had to come to a temporary stop after 15 people had already sweated their guts out to beat their shipmates’ time.

After restarting the event a few hours later, there were some impressive times posted.  Lieutenant Gareth Griffiths completed the challenge in 14 minutes, 32 seconds, with Leading Chef Gary Thompson close on his heels at 14 minutes, 40 seconds.  

CPO Bathgate said:  “I was impressed with the crew’s performance, especially since they have been working flat out since November last year to get the submarine to where it is now.  

“People are the naval service’s most important asset and maintaining their health and fitness is a major contributor to morale and to fighting power.”