The departure of Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has been postponed for the fourth time this year, with the latest delay blamed on the weather.
The £3 billion warship had been due to sail from Portsmouth Naval Base on Friday to take part in major training exercises with both UK and US F-35B Lightning jets.
But the sailing has been postponed after wind speeds picked up, affecting the giant ship’s transit through the narrow mouth of Portsmouth Harbour.
The 65,000-tonne warship had been previously listed to leave on Wednesday but the navy said that this date had only been chosen because the original forecast for Friday had not been good enough for the sailing.
But a navy spokesman explained that Wednesday’s sailing was cancelled after the forecast for Friday improved and the trip was changed again to Friday.
However heavier winds than expected means that this departure has again been put off with the next scheduled departure being on Monday September 21.
Two previous departures by the carrier this year were also postponed – one at the start of September and one in April – after a small number of crew members tested positive for Covid-19 on each occasion.
The ship posted on Twitter: “QNLZ is ready in all respects to sail for #Groupex and #JW202.
“Unfortunately due to the high easterly winds, it is not safe to navigate the gap.
“We remain under sailing orders, for a weather change.”
The Queen Elizabeth will sail with a full complement of 1,700 crew with the F-35 jets joining from RAF Marham while in the North Sea.
The carrier is aiming to declare strike carrier capability later this year ahead of its first operational deployment in 2021.
A Royal Navy spokesman said that the entire ship’s company had been retested for Covid-19 in the past week with “fewer than 10” having received positive tests.
They have been taken off the ship while those who had been in close contact with them will self-isolate on board.
This will involve staying in mess rooms occupied only by sailors who are also having to isolate.
About 100 sailors have been self-isolating on board but a navy spokesman said the “vast majority” would be released from isolation on Friday having completed their 14 days.
He added that many of the crew are operating in small bubbles to help prevent any spread of the virus.