The fittest ships in the Royal Navy

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The status of fittest ship in the Royal Navy is somewhat in dispute after HMS Ark Royal's and HMS Lancaster's physical trainers have set impressive standards over recent deployments.

HMS Ark Royal has declared itself as the fittest ship in the Royal Navy after statistics revealed a 98.5 per cent pass rate for the Royal Navy Fitness Test (RNFT).

Chief Petty Officer (Physical Trainer) [CPO(PT)] Steve Losh, the lead physical trainer onboard, has also announced that 100 per cent of the ship’s company were in date for their RNFTs.

However, Leading Physical Trainer Daz Hoare, who has recently served onboard HMS Lancaster, has just been declared the Royal Navy’s Physical Training Instructor (PTI) of the Year and claims that HMS Lancaster has the fittest ship’s company.

Every member of the Royal Navy must take the fitness test at least once a year and are only as good as their last result; the 1.5 per cent failing will be firmly under Ark Royal’s CPO(PT) Losh’s scrutiny.

The results came following a busy training period for the nation’s strike carrier, which is also the flagship of the Royal Navy. Ark Royal has been operating off the east coast of the United States of America as the command platform for the multinational Auriga Task Group. See Related News to read more on this.

One of the key contributing factors to the outstanding RNFT figures released has been the ship’s company’s response to CPO(PT) Losh’s enthusiasm and unwillingness to accept defeat.

His continuous engagement with the Command, espousing the Director of Naval Physical Development’s (DNPD’s) intent of ‘Time for Physical Development, not time off for Physical Development [PDev]’, has paid huge dividends - reaffirming that the ‘P’ in PDev stands for ‘Physical’ not ‘Personal’.

Members of HMS Ark Royal's ship's company improving their physical fitness using the newly-procured 'spinning' bikes
Members of HMS Ark Royal's ship's company improving their physical fitness using the newly-procured 'spinning' bikes [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Gregg Macready, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

The Command has responded in kind, meeting DNPD’s aspiration for each member of the Service to experience three hours of physical development during the working week as the operational programme dictates.

Hence, despite temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius, the running machines, bikes and cross-trainers have been operating in the hangar, and other such salubrious locations as air treatment units, almost non-stop.

Moreover, the addition of demanding PDev circuit training by departments and ‘wholeship’ circuits at differing levels has really changed the culture towards PDev onboard.

The ship’s commander, Commander Rob Bellfield, firmly believes that the example must be set from the top. He said:

It is not easy for watchkeepers working unusual shift patterns to focus on physical exercise, but I have ensured that all departments follow the tone set by CPO(PT) Losh. Furthermore, a sailor’s attitude towards physical development says a lot about his or her character.

At the beginning of the deployment all the officers took their test on one day - the aim being to set the right example from the start. It is truly fantastic to have 100 per cent of the ship’s company in date for testing. However, we will not rest there, the bar has been set and those just under will be appropriately encouraged.

One of the first initiatives CPO(PT) Losh delivered was, after procuring 20 ‘spinning’ bikes, to attempt to pass some of the ownership for the physical condition of the ship’s company to individual departments, recognising that small groups would train more effectively together and feel less intimidated by the ‘muscle bosuns’.

We only provide the opportunity; the support we have received throughout the deployment from all levels of the ship’s company has been top-line.

This was achieved with his Leading Physical Trainer (LPT), Matt ‘Shorty’ Shortt, by training and qualifying over 20 ‘spinning’ instructors, generating more than 85 sessions a week and injecting PDev into all areas of the ship. LPT Shortt explained:

We only provide the opportunity; the support we have received throughout the deployment from all levels of the ship’s company has been top-line. Our aim at the beginning of the deployment was to get the ship’s company 100 per cent in date for RNFT - this is more achievable whilst on deployment because people have nowhere to hide.

HMS Ark Royal sailed with some 44 personnel undergoing remedial training and that is now down to just seven, which for a ship as large as this is very pleasing. We still have three weeks left of the trip and we are hoping this will reduce even more.

The ship’s latest visit, to Port Canaveral in Florida, spells the end of a very busy training period for everybody onboard, including a high tempo exercise operating alongside coalition partners in the world’s largest ‘carrier strike gymnasium’.

It is the LPT from HMS Lancaster however, Daz Hoare, that has just been declared the Royal Navy’s PTI of the Year and he has been presented with the award by the Commander of British Forces Gibraltar, Commodore Adrian Bell.

The nomination for the award came from the Captain of HMS Lancaster on which LPT Hoare served prior to his posting to Gibraltar.

In an 18-month period, HMS Lancaster spent 15 months at sea on active operations.

During that time, LPT Hoare introduced a software package which kept records of each participant’s level of fitness, including such data as body fat readings and peak flow measurements.

This data allowed LPT Hoare to compile an individual fitness and nutrition programme for each person. HMS Lancaster was the first Royal Navy ship to introduce such a detailed fitness assessment package.

As well as the usual football, cricket and netball teams, LPT Hoare also encouraged the ship’s company to enter a team in the prestigious Dubai Rugby Sevens competition and, whilst the ship was in Gibraltar, nearly seventy members of the ship’s company ran up the Rock in a record-winning time for the fleet. LPT Hoare said:

I’m pretty certain that HMS Lancaster had the fittest ship’s company in the fleet. But I did get the support of everybody on board. It was just that we all went just one step further in everything we did.

The nomination also makes mention of LPT Hoare’s achievement in gaining for the ship a national boxing award and being the first ship to gain the Football Association’s Charter Standard Award.