Sunderland hosts Royal Navy destroyer

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THE Royal Navy’s fastest destroyer made a whistle-stop tour of Wearside.

Onlookers gathered on the Sunderland coast to catch a glimpse of HMS York, which can reach speeds of more than 34 knots, as it visited the city for “routine rest and recuperation” after a gruelling training exercise.

Paul Nicholson, senior helmsman with Sunderland RNLI, was among those who witnessed the spectacle on the River Wear on Saturday.

“I don’t think anybody was expecting the visit, but it was quite a sight,” he said.

The Portsmouth-based Type 42 destroyer was returning from ship boarding and submarine hunting drills during the annual France-Russia-UK-US exercise (FRUKUS), hosted by the Russian Federation Navy between the ports of Baltiysk and St Petersburg.

Last year, HMS York dashed to deliver medical supplies to Libya and visited British territories in the South Atlantic, but this year many of her ship’s company were visiting Russia for the first time.

The ship itself was working with the French ship FS De Grasse, the Russian vessel RFN Yaroslav Mudray and the American warship USS Normandy.

They put to sea from Baltiysk, part of the “closed” diplomatically-restricted Russian district of Kaliningrad, heading into strong winds until they reached the calm exercise area in the Baltic Sea.

Over the next four days, the group went through watch manoeuvres, repelling fast attack craft, air defence, man overboard drills and close and medium-range gunnery exercises.

Commander Rex Cox, commanding officer of HMS York, said: “FRUKUS 2012 has been an excellent opportunity to interact with the Russian Federation Navy, both at sea and alongside in Baltiysk and the stunning and hospitable city of St Petersburg.

“My ship’s company have put in a cracking effort into strengthening the relationship between our two navies and have been excellent ambassadors for the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom; I am extremely proud of them.”

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho