Race day 26/09/20
An unusual first event for an unusual year, normally Autumn Leaves is later in the line-up for the year but as with much of 2020 things have had to be done differently and the ORT calendar is no different. Covid has had an impact, but with some alterations and adaptions events are able to be staged again.
For the ORT that meant starting with one of the more challenging events of the season, night nav. Taking place over 5 hours using the cold and dry areas around Larkhill and the Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA) Autumn Leaves requires high levels of driving and navigation skill and discipline to complete, over a route encountering dust and difficult terrain with only the head lamps to light the way.
This year saw 21 trucks lined up with a mix of civilian and military green fleet taking part, two of which representing the RN & RM as Truck 3 and 7 in the starting order joining as a team to enable a chance at gaining another trophy for the ORT. Truck 3 being driven by CPO Cozens with navigator CPO Beckett alongside truck 7 of CPO Basset navigated by Sgt Hodgeson. After completing Scrutineering and final orders being disseminated, all observing correct social distancing, the final brief was carried out over Zoom to maintain the highest standards.
The navigation instructions were released with 30 minutes to plot, before commencing the route with crews encountering speed traps, secret check points as well as technical driving and navigation challenges to thoroughly exercise the crews.
The two Trucks began well completing the first 4 sections in good order with minor errors highlighting the difficulties of navigating at night across arduous driving routes. By the half-way point truck 3 had kept on track keeping the pace coming in on time at MTC 4, however carrying a fault with the alternator. After some overseas calls and adjustments made by Squid utilising a hammer and torch the truck was set to go again all within the time of the rest break.
Having encountered difficulties during the first half of the event Truck 7 retired, leaving truck 3 to continue pushing for the finish. As the stages pressed onto the Plain training area the complications of driving at pace over difficult terrain, and navigating challenging routes in the dusty dark, began to become apparent as truck 3 gradually began to fall away from making the check points on time.
To recover and avoid further penalty the crew had a difficult choice to make, continue with the route or cut and run back to Larkhill. With 10 minutes before due time and miles left to be covered, they turned for home, plotting a quick route and making best speed they covered the ground to the last MTC, just over time, but safeguarding from excessive points being accrued.
As the last of the crews came in a short wait ensued with a Zoom call presenting the results to the teams. Although having one DNF the ORT was awarded joint 3rd for Truck 3 for a thoroughly enjoyable event organised by BAMA, the truck may have needed some work but gave a good showing leaving with a good result at one of the more challenging events of the year.