NEWS 4th Jul 2006

Intrepid Teenagers take to the High Seas

Intrepid Teenagers take to the High Seas

In early May this year, a group of 8 teenagers set off for a weekend's sailing. All that they had in common then was that four of them had had cancer and as a result had been invited aboard the London Sailing Project's boat the Helen Mary, by Sail 4 Cancer. The other four were their friends. They did not know each other and none of them had sailed before, so it was with some trepidation that they traipsed aboard to join the professional crew that Friday evening.

They spent the first night in dock in the Hamble, then rose early the next morning and were split into two teams; one team to get the boat ready to sail, the other to make breakfast. At 8.30am they set sail for Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. Whilst they sailed down the estuary, Dean was on watch for boats to avoid. The trouble was there were SO many of them that he became quite manic informing the helm of every single one!

Sadly the weather was not kind to them that day. In addition to constant rain there was very little wind, so progress was made at a snail's pace. However it would have taken more than disappointing weather to dampen this crew's spirits and they took to playing charades and other silly games in the cockpit. Michelle and Nicole took it upon themselves to cheer everyone up by making a fabulous banoffee pie. The impact was somewhat lost however when they proceeded to eat half of it themselves!

Michelle, Nicole, Bic (Rebecca) and Sam were in the galley that evening and as a result, the whole crew feasted on TWO garlic roast legs of lamb, roast potatoes and full trimmings, before everyone piled into a pub in Yarmouth to spend the evening watching a live band. On Sunday morning, there was a huge treat in store, as the skipper had organised for Yarmouth lifeboat to take them all on a breathtaking ride around the Needles, before they set sail back to the Hamble.

For a group who had never sailed before, the whole team learned incredibly quickly, rapidly becoming skilled in basic navigation, the rules of the sea - and of course knot tying. Sam and John were the star turn, hoisting the sail in record time. Both the professional crew and Em Huddert from Sail 4 Cancer, who had accompanied the youngsters, were impressed at how the group gelled together. "We had such fun," recounts Em, "Lucy and Sarah have particularly infectious laughs and just giggled all weekend. I've never heard anyone laugh so much!"

But then perhaps it was understandable that the group became so close, as these young people have had to endure such physical pain, such mental anguish. As John explained, it was great to know that he was not the only one who had suffered, that other people on the boat had gone through the same problems, the same heartache. The problem with having an illness like cancer during what is already a difficult time of your life is that many of your friends cannot deal with the situation and tend to back off. So to be there with people who understood, learning something new together, with their whole lives in front of them was brilliant. Here none of them was "the kid with cancer", but all were part of a team.

Having arrived back in the Hamble at 2pm, the team had lunch on board, before going their separate ways. Before they left for home however, each was given a signed copy of Sail 4 Cancer patron Nick Maloney's latest book. Just in case they needed any more inspiration to try sailing again!!

Since returning home, the emails have been flying around as they all want to keep in touch with their new found friends. And to go sailing again - with all the same team, of course. Because, as Dean says, they were just such a "top laugh".


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