Another Sailing Weekend For Teenagers

19 June 2008

Sail 4 Cancer and the Rona Sailing Project (RSP) have teamed up once again to offer teenagers who have suffered from cancer the opportunity to “get away from it all” and have an adventurous weekend doing something far removed from hospital appointments – namely crewing an ocean-going yacht.

On Friday 9 May, three youngsters each accompanied by a friend or relative, boarded the 57 foot ketch “Helen Mary R” for a sailing weekend aimed at teaching them developing in them the “attributes of a seafarer”, i.e. a sense of responsibility, resourcefulness and teamwork.

Under the supervision of the skipper and the ‘afterguard’ of professional sailors, the youngsters were expected to provide muscle power and enthusiasm as, being so large, the yacht wouldn’t go anywhere without some hard work from the crew.

Sailing from the Universal Marina on the River Hamble to the coast of the Isle of Wight, from Cowes and Osbourne Bay to Portsmouth Dockyard and through the Solent on the way back to the berth, the six teenagers shared some exciting moments and some more strenuous ones.  They discovered the challenges of guiding such a big boat – learning how to use the sheets and winches correctly.  They also saw some famous racing machines when out on the water (Ellen MacArthur’s trimaran in particular) and some very impressive royal navy vessels such as HMS Ark Royal.

Skipper Gareth Parker was extremely impressed that all six youngsters climbed to the top of the 65 foot mast.  Other highlights included diving and swinging off the bow into the water to cool down (apparently known as ‘pulpit diving’) and some good natured competition between crew and afterguard at a local bowling alley!

As Gareth reported:

“It throws light on one of the key benefits of these trips. It allows the youngsters to get away from that aspect of their lives and be ‘normal’, albeit within an abnormal situation, namely charging around on a big yacht! Other aspects of their personalities and abilities become also much more important.”

Instinctive sailing ability, physical strength, enthusiasm for learning and willingness to jump into any task or to act as ‘chief morale officer’ were some of the attributes that Gareth noted among this particular group. He also remarked that ‘the big C’ was mentioned ‘only once in passing right at the start of the trip.

Gareth summed it up:

“I suspect their friends, who perhaps see them as ‘the kid with cancer’, would imagine the answer to the question ‘what did you do last weekend’ to be anything other than ‘I sailed an ocean-going yacht, climbed the mast and went pulpit diving!”

Another Sailing Weekend For Teenagers
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