Sam Brunner spent a day aboard Trust yacht Scarlet Oyster sailing with cancer remission children
The Ellen Macarthur Trust (EMT) is on a roll. Not only has it been named official Skandia Cowes Week charity for the next three years, this year the Trust is also racing in the event for the first time. I went out on the water with EMT children and volunteers to see what it was all about.
There are five youngsters on board the Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster: Barbara, Laura, Paula, Emma and Dan. They have all sailed with the trust before; EMT runs four-day sailing trips throughout the year for children living with cancer and leukaemia. Most of those taken on trips are in remission, or at a break in, or end of their treatment. The aim is to help bridge the gap between treatment – often involving long periods of isolation – and recovery. Children are able to take a break from their families and encouraged to gain life skills experience and to become more independent and self-confident during the sailing trips. The Trust’s motto is ‘Go For It!’, and, stepping on-board, theory was definitely in practice: three of the girls were busy sorting lunch out on their own, happily chatting in the galley.
The order of the day was less racing, more fun, skipper Andy Dare told me: “This is ‘racing’ in inverted commas. We’ve been firmly instructed to come last in every race!” Scarlet Oyster had done well in light airs the previous day, disobeying orders to finish in a respectable mid-fleet position. But once we set off, it soon became clear the heavy loads on a 48-footer and the length of the race would be too much for the children in the relatively high winds we were experiencing. Adding this to a start-line mix-up that saw us losing the rest of the fleet for a while, the best option was to furl the jib, pin the main, and have a picnic in the sunshine. After everyone was full and happy again, we decided to go for a gentle sail over to Southampton Water. The girls took the opportunity to fill up a bucket-load of water-bombs, and the journey back to Cowes saw the entire crew get a soaking! Asking Emma what the best bit about EMT was, she said: ‘It’s all great, I love it. Especially the water-fights… But it’s more fun when you’ve got the gun!’
Monday 31 July is Cowes Week ‘charity day’, and EMT will be turning the event ‘blue’ for the day. Competitors and spectators can show their support by flying a blue spinnaker, wearing an EMT blue wristband, or simply by wearing blue clothes. The inaugural EMT Ball will be held on Monday evening, with almost 400 of sailing’s great and good – including EMT patrons Ellen MacArthur and Shirley Robertson – to attend. To find out more about the Trust, visit their stand in the Parade Village throughout Cowes Week, or see www.theellenmacarthurtrust.org