New Zealanders Neil Barnett and Russell Watts, who are both living with Multiple Sclerosis, will join the crew sailing the 67-foot sloop Oceans of Hope on the Darwin, Australia to Singapore leg of its round-the-world voyage to change popular perceptions regarding MS. Mssrs. Barnett and Watts were welcomed aboard the yacht on July 5 for their four-week sailing adventure, joining a crew of eight others, including five persons who have been diagnosed with MS.
Mr. Barnett, 58, who says he has been sailing on and off since he was 13 years old, had actually sailed in Oceans of Hope — then named Motorola — in the 1988 BT Challenge from Edinburgh, Scotland to Plymouth, England via London Tower Bridge. Since being diagnosed with MS eight years ago, just after turning 50, Mr. Barnett continued his business importing and marketing 26 ft trailer-sailor yachts for several years, which he says kept him involved with sailing, teaching others to sail and providing him with a wonderful leisure pursuit. However Trade Boat Shows eventually became too hard to do so he sold the dealership, but did retain his trailer yacht, and when this Sailing Sclerosis/Oceans of Hope opportunity presented itself, he says “I just had to do it and become ‘reconnected’ with large yachts and crews. With my sailing experience I also felt that I would be a very useful crewmember and be able to help others on board with less experience.”
Mr. Watts, diagnosed in 2010 a year after he suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury in a motorcycle accident has subsequently participated in over 100 cycle races and is a New Zealand para-tri athlete, competing both at home and abroad. “We are in awe of Russell and what he has achieved, a true inspiration,” comments Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand President Malcolm Rickerby in a release. “We wish Neil and Russell all the best with their voyage and commend them on taking the challenge with Oceans of Hope to change the perceptions of Multiple Sclerosis.”
The Oceans of Hope project was pioneered by Dr. Mikkel Anthonisen, 48, Founder of the sponsoring Sailing Sclerosis Foundation (SSF) and a MS specialist at Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, in Denmark. Dr. Anthonisen has been a doctor for 14 years and from the ages of 19–23, took jobs on boats sailing all over the world. A doctor, psychotherapist and sailor, he realized the power of involvement in sailing after meeting a patient early in 2013 and began building the dream of sailing around the world with people living with the disease.
The objective of Dr. Anthonisen and the other OoH crew members, several of whom are living with MS, is to build and strengthen bonds throughout the global MS and sailing communities on their circumnavigation of the globe, and to change perceptions of multiple sclerosis by showing what is possible when people with a chronic disease are empowered to conquer their individual challenges, engaging those whose lives are touched by MS, and developing networks as a foundation for life-changing behaviours.
Oceans of Hope left Denmark in late 2014 on what is projected to be a 17 month journey, calling at multiple ports in Europe, North America, South America, Australia and New Zealand, South Asia, and Africa. Each port day is celebrated with an interactive event, giving local people living with MS the opportunity to learn to sail and participate as crew members.
On the antipodean leg of the voyage — which marks roughly the halfway point of the 33,000 nautical mile circumnavigation — since early May, Oceans of Hope visited Auckland, New Zealand where it was officially welcomed in a ceremony held at The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and the crew took part in the celebration of MS Auckland’s 50th anniversary.
Dr. Anthonisen was there along with OOH MS Crew from around the globe: Mara Johnson and Craig Ruding from the U.S., Henny Eriksen from Denmark, Peter Bosch from the Netherlands, and Arne Madsen from Denmark.
Also taking part in the celebrations were Ex-America’s Cup sailor and NZ Paralympian sailor Richard Dodson, Neil Woodhams, President of MS Auckland, Malcolm Rickerby, President of MS New Zealand, Therese Russel, CEO of MS Auckland as well as members of MS Auckland and MS New Zealand.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?