A few weeks ago the nation’s aircraft carrier and flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived for the first time to its home base in Portsmouth under the command of Captain Jerry Kyd. The 65,000 ton ship’s move came after several weeks of sea trials in the North Sea and months of training by the crew and Captain for this is the biggest ship ever built for the Royal Navy, and is completely untried.
The ship will be “road tested” by Telegraph Cars at a later date but we wanted to see how the captains of HMS Queen Elizabeth and its sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, currently being built in Rosyth, Scotland, would fare road testing the latest Land Rover Discovery.
So we challenged Captain Jerry Kyd of HMS Queen Elizabeth and Captain Ian Groom of HMS Prince of Wales to drive the new Discovery across Scotland acting on Telegraph motoring orders, using only maps, clues and no Sat Nav. “That's easy, bring it on!” said Kyd.
It was 3pm on a blustery Monday when both captains received instructions to report to HMS Caledonia, the Royal Navy’s shore station at Rosyth to get acquainted with their Discovery and receive their first set of orders for the next two days.
“When we got into the Discovery, resplendent in a very smart Navy blue paint job (how appropriate), our first impression very positive. It is a handsome car, but not over the top, it balances modesty and an up-market impression very well – clever stuff,” said Kyd.
The instructions sent them speeding to a lighthouse beneath the Forth Bridge with Captain Kyd driving and Captain Groom pouring over the driver’s manual to find out as much as possible about the vehicle.
“Overnight at Holiday Inn Edinburgh. Report to Her Majesty’s former Royal Yacht Britannia in uniform,” said the envelope at the lighthouse. At 0800 they braved early morning traffic to Britannia, where they took the salute from some of their sailors before getting their next set of orders from the Yacht’s Head of maintenance, Derek Miller.
“Proceed at full speed to Her Majesty’s summer residence and on the way find a James McFarlane’s Land Rover Defender based “Kitchen” café in a lay-by near Giltown. Stop at the highest hedge in the world, watch out for squirrels crossing the road, take a deviation at Spittal of Glenshee, look out Port and Starboard Snow Poles, find the Devil’s Elbow and traverse it. Arrive at Her Majesty’s residence and ask for orders.”
It didn’t all go exactly to plan. They nearly missed the roadside café where they stopped for a great coffee. “Luckily, the Discovery’s stopping is good with powerful brakes – HMS Queen Elizabeth takes two miles to stop from full speed (somewhere north of 27 knots),” said Captain Groom. They then missed the highest hedge in the world, didn’t see the squirrels crossing sign and nearly didn't deviate at the Spittal of Glenshee.
However, this gave them a few extra miles on the Discovery and the first comparisons became apparent.
“In terms of power and drive systems, both the Discovery and the HMS Queen Elizabeth class carriers have more in common than one might think with impressive power available almost instantly and fit for purpose. In the case of the carriers, over 110 mega Watts of raw power generated from two massive Rolls Royce Trent gas turbines (the same ones that grace many airliners) linked up to four enormous V16 Wartsila Diesels, enough power to supply the whole of Swindon. The Discovery has only one engine but this V6 258 BHP was more than plenty for swift overtaking and cross-country mile eating,” said Kyd.
They eventually found the famous Devil’s Elbow hairpin on the old stretch of the A93 and then headed for Balmoral.
A quick ring on the doorbell and Her Majesty’s Resident Factor Richard Gledson emerged to give them the next set of orders, taking them over one of the most famous roads in Scotland, the A939 Cock Bridge to Tomintoul.
They were getting into the spirit of the event, managing the clues and the old technology of map reading was working a treat.
On the way they had to find the Well of the Lecht, which commemorates that in 1754 Colonel Lord Charles Hey and five companies of the 33rd Regiment built the military road from the Lecht "to the Spey" at Grantown-on-Spey. Then a visit to Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands, and on to the Osprey Centre at Boat of Garten, run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, to find a set of WW2 U-Boat binoculars.
The next morning they headed for an early appointment at Blair Atholl Castle to raise the Scottish Saltire in order to unlock their final set of orders.
“22-mile dash to the Butterstone Loch Land Rover Experience Centre. Off-road driving. Be prepared.”
They would have to drive the worst that the instructors could throw at them.
“Off-road, the Discovery is epic,” said Kyd. “We covered many miles across some serious off-road Scottish tracks, mud, water, logs, rocks – you name it. The car just keeps going and the technology assisting you means that even an off-road novice like me can negotiate the most challenging territory.”
“Ian Groom has just driven me up a section of steep boulders, which I would not have attempted in a Challenger tank. We thought it impossible but here we are at the top! It is phenomenal and all done in such serene comfort too with Radio 4 on. The suspension is simply brilliant – on rough tracks with deep potholes and rocks the size of suitcases” he said.
Groom agreed: “As the proud owner of a Defender I am deeply impressed. After the rock climb, Jerry forded a deep pool of water nearly a metre deep, we kept a bit of power and let the car do the work. We were bone dry, and the car didn’t even seem to notice the water pressure at the bow.’
They passed the test and had just an hour to get back to Rosyth, arriving exactly 48hs after they left, which they did with three minutes to spare.
Although quite different beasts, the similarities between the new Discovery and the Royal Navy’s new 67,000 ton Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are perhaps more apparent than one would think. Both car and ship are British designed, British built and each ground-breaking in their own way.
“The Discovery’s computer driven platform management system automatically configures the car for the requirement, just like the aircraft carrier will optimise the power delivery for whatever her Captain wants at any particular moment,” explained Captain Groom.
“In both platforms flexibility is key where the engineering is tailored to suit the terrain or requirement. HMS Queen Elizabeth will automatically configure her power and propulsion systems for a range of situations: diesel running for optimum fuel efficiency for long ocean passages, or all engines to maximum resilience for Action Stations when fighting and maximum speed for launching her air wing, which will soon include the latest ‘Generation 5’ F-35B Lightning fighter jet bought for both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.”
“The list of similarities goes on with the latest platform management and collision avoidance systems or the extensive use of inbuilt cameras to maximise the operators situational awareness. Even the Discovery’s electric tow bar can be deployed at the touch of a button, much like the ship’s mast, which can be similarly lowered to allow access to ports that are restricted by bridges!”
Both the ship and the Discovery have much in common but perhaps the thing that brings them together is flying the flag for the Best of British engineering and the two Captains proved that they can manage both.