21 July 2021

We're #BackOnBoard for 2021

After months of preparation, several test sails, and a whole load of Zoom calls, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust welcomed young people #BackOnBoard for the first time in almost two years last week (12 July).

Three young people are smiling at the camera on board a yacht, with three members of the Trust team smiling behind them

As the first young people arrived in Largs for their ‘Taste of the Trust’ sailing day, it was as if no time had passed at all.

Some things were new: everyone’s temperature was checked on arrival and morning hellos were held outdoors instead of the sailing club. But then the young people, accompanied by familiar Trust volunteers and skippers, boarded Caledonian Hero and the chartered North Star.

The same was happening across the North Sea in Bangor. Young people treated for cancer at Belfast hospitals took to the Belfast Lough aboard the Trust’s yacht Moonspray, which had sailed over the week before.

Each crew of young people took to the water soon after they had arrived, and before long were taking the helm and raising the sails.

In all, 26 young people, aged between 10 and 26, were supported by the Trust in the first week of the 2021 season.

Skipper Paul Taylor said each Taste of the Trust day-sail was like ‘a four-day trip in miniature’.

A chance to get back into the world

Ben was treated for papillary thyroid carcinoma in Glasgow when he was 16. Now 18, he revealed lockdown had been a “hard time” and found going weeks and months without seeing friends and family difficult.

But he said: “I was grateful for the trip as an escape and a chance to get back into the world we knew before. I felt the trip was a great way to meet new people and distract yourself from the daily woes of COVID and cancer. Being part of a group in this way was exciting and a great confidence builder.”

Five young women at the helm of a yacht are smiling at the camera, four of whom are young people being supported by the Trust and one is Laura, a volunteer, who works for Young Lives vs Cancer

Laura Rohdich, who is a Young People’s Community Worker for Young Lives vs Cancer, said it was the first time she’d met some of the young people despite supporting them over the phone and Zoom.

She joined the Trust in Bangor: “Everyone was very grateful for the opportunity to be with people outside of your bubble and doing something that wasn’t a Zoom quiz or a walk or a chat in the garden.

"It was lovely to watch friendships blooming and make plans for all the things we can do next. What an amazing opportunity after such a difficult year.”

Just getting started

This week, young people previously supported by the Trust are enjoying a week of sailing, games and outdoor activities at Essex Outdoors Bradwell.

It took the efforts of the entire Trust community to piece together a unique and adapted season for 2021. To see it come together after tonnes of work is nothing short of magical.

Thank you to everyone who has made what is happening possible. It has been truly amazing to welcome young people back on board, and the 2021 season is only just getting started.