Support through sailing

Support through sailing

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The amazing work of Dame Ellen MacArthur’s Cancer Trust charity was taken to another level with the launch this September of a Beneteau yacht customised to meet the needs of young sailors…

Alongside all the new boats on show on the first day of the 2016 Southampton Boat Show, a very special yacht was being handed over to the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. Support from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery has enabled the charity to purchase its first yacht to be located at its base in Largs in Scotland, which opened in early 2013. The new boat, a Beneteau Oceanis 45, will enable the charity to better support young people from the North of England and Scotland in rebuilding their confidence following cancer treatment.

The purchase was made possible after the Trust received an additional £200,000 at the People’s Postcode Lottery Charity Gala from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Confidence boost

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust was set up by Dame Ellen MacArthur in 2003, inspired by a life-changing trip sailing with children with cancer, which was organised by a French charity. The Trust takes young people, aged between 8 and 24, sailing to help them regain their confidence on their way to recovery from cancer. Working with every Young Person Principal Treatment Centre in the country, who deal with around 95% of people in that age range being treated for cancer in the UK, the Trust receives recommendations of those who would benefit the most from a trip with them. The trips offer a gentle introduction to sailing, while encouraging teamwork and fun. The challenge of a new experience helps to build confidence and allows them to regain the independence that might have been lost during long periods of hospitalisation. Having its own new bespoke boat will enable the Trust to expand its offering and improve the experience for young people sailing with it.

Custom by design

Although at first glance the new boat, which was chosen following advice from Beneteau and the Ancasta Group, boasts the same sleek look and lines of the Beneteau Oceanis range, it has been specially adapted for its role with the charity and will particularly support those with mobility issues resulting from their cancer treatment.

Charged with adapting the boat, Hamble Yacht Services Refit and Repair worked with the charity to ensure that the boat perfectly responds to the needs of the young people who will sail her.

The Trust supports a number of young people who have suffered from brain tumours and sarcomas, treatment of which affects their coordination and balance, and may result in an amputation, limiting their ability to move around a boat. So the new boat has been fitted with extra handrails to help these new sailors move around her with ease. The primary winches have also been moved forward to give the crew more room to manoeuvre when trimming the sails. Access is made more straightforward by the fact that the stern of the boat lowers to pontoon height, making it easier to embark and disembark from the boat, a feature which attracted the charity to the Beneteau.

Inside, the cabins have been configured to give young people more privacy. The addition of split-level bunks separated by innovative fabric screens means that young people sharing a cabin can feel like they have their own space.

In the main saloon the large table creates a social area where the crew can get together in the evening for meals and games. The gently sloping 45-degree companionway makes going down below even easier.

Happy customers

The charity is delighted with the final result. As well as being used for the four-day sailing trips that the Trust offers, having the new boat expands the Trust’s capacity to offer ‘Day Sails’ for the families of young people who are too ill to join the four-day trips.

Dame Ellen expressed the charity’s gratitude at the handover event at Southampton Boat Show: “It’s been a big day for the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, it’s a step that wouldn’t have been possible without the massive support from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, the Ancasta Group and Beneteau, so a huge thank you!” She continued, “A magnificent job really has been done”.

After the handover at the Southampton Boat Show the yacht was sailed up to the Trust’s Largs base, where she will join operations ready to start the sailing season in spring 2017. The charity’s base in Scotland has enabled it to drastically increase the number of young people who have sailed with it. Young people from across Northern England and Scotland have been able to take up trips, whereas previously the distance to Trust’s Isle of Wight base might have made this difficult. However, so far the trips from the base have been run using chartered vessels, which has limited the Trust’s flexibility and has an associated ongoing cost. Frank Fletcher, Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust Chief Executive explained: “This new yacht will make operations more cost efficient as the number of vessels needing to be chartered will be reduced,” so crucially the charity’s funds will go further. For the moment, the new boat is called the EMCT 2 but she is due to be named by the People’s Postcode Lottery at a launch event next April, which will mark the start of the new season.

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