14 April 2021

Frank blog: Ready to get back on the water

Nothing would make me happier than the Trust supporting young people in person again this summer. We now believe we can safely make that happen.

Thanks to the vaccine rollout, advances in testing and the feedback of so many young people, families, hospitals, charity partners and colleagues in the sailing and outdoor sectors – who we can’t thank enough for their help – we now have a best-case scenario; a plan for 2021 that takes the Trust on tour across the UK.

We’ve said it so many times in the past year; young people living through and beyond cancer need us more than ever. Bringing them back together is the best way we can make a difference. But it must be safe. Exploring how to do that has been our sole focus this winter. That’s why I’m so happy to share this with you today; our hopes for a summer that will look a bit different to usual, but which gives young people the support they need right now.

Frank Fletcher, Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust CEOThe course for 2021

In looking at how we might get young people together again in 2021, we’ve asked two questions - 1) how will we keep them safe? and 2) does feedback from hospitals, young people/families suggest if we organised trips young people would want to come?

The answer to question two was always likely to differ between young people joining us for the first time and those who had been on a Trust trip before, and this has shaped the types of trips young people will have the chance to enjoy this summer.

First-time trips

During February, the team had calls with all 37 of our hospital and charity partners to understand if we ran our traditional four-day sailing trips in Cowes or Largs, would young people (and/or their parents/guardians) feel confident enough to commit to coming. The message was clear; while COVID is still here, four days away from home on a boat would be a tough sell. We needed a different first-time experience this year.

So, from Monday 12 July, we plan to host new regional ‘Taste of the Trust’ days – with different events for 8-17 and 18–24-year-olds - at 10 coastal and inland venues across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Welsh borders. Depending on location, these will either be a day of yacht sailing or multi-activities at an outdoor centre, with the aim for 80% of young people to be within 90 minutes drive of a venue, to limit the need to use public transport. As always, to make sure everyone can come on a trip, transport will be provided from all primary treatment centres.

The hope is the young people get so much from the day, they are inspired to return for the full four-day Trust sailing experience in the future, hopefully, next year.

Return trips

For young people we’ve previously supported, the picture was a bit different. Having contacted everyone who would be eligible for a 2021 trip last autumn, it was great that so many young people wanted trips and trusted we would only run them if it was safe.

So, the plan is to run four residential weeks for 8-17 years old at our long-standing partner centres at Essex Outdoors Bradwell and Water Park Lakeland Adventure Centre (Lake District) and a new centre, Longtown Outdoor Learning Trust in the Brecon Beacons, in July and August. For 18-24-year-olds, there will be South Coast and Scotland Longer Cruising from Cowes and Largs, plus a five-day trip on the Ocean Youth Trust South’s, Prolific, during September. A Bradwell residential is scheduled in July too.

We also hope to run a canal trip this autumn, and two boats are entered in the ASTO Small Ships Race in early October. It’s great to have a boat entered in the Round the Island Race on 3 July too, and we’re so grateful to be the official race charity again. Round the Island will act as a pre-season ‘test event’ for the extra safety and risk management controls we will implement across all our trips in 2021.

Safety first

Nothing matters more than keeping young people, our volunteers, skippers and team safe, and while we can’t eliminate all COVID-risk we can minimise it and have revised our safety procedures and risk management measures for all trips.

It means we’ve had to make some hard but necessary decisions for this year, including an amendment to our Eligibility Criteria that unfortunately anyone who is in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable category, as per the Government and Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) guidelines, won’t be able to join a trip this summer.

We’re so sorry this will exclude some young people who need us this summer, but we’re exploring other ways to support them. Anyone who can’t join us on medical grounds or chooses not to come as they/their families don’t feel confident enough will absolutely get the chance to come on a trip again in 2022.

Also, anyone aged 18+ who will come into contact with young people – whether a young person, volunteer, skipper or team member - must be three* weeks’ post first vaccination unless medically exempt, and everyone taking part in a trip will need to do a COVID test at home that morning (the Trust will be supplying tests) and be temperature checked before travelling and daily throughout the week on return trips. All activities will be subject to rigorous sanitisation standards - personal and equipment - and social distancing and mask-wearing will be in line at least with current advice at the time.

What’s next?

The past year has taught us all it’s impossible to be 100% certain about anything. We can plan, but there are still things out of our control that could ultimately decide if or which trips will be able to go ahead. We want to be back supporting young people in person so much and really hope we can. But things could change between now and the end of September, and we may have to make some difficult decisions because fundamentally keeping everyone safe is all that matters.

Our plans are based on three assumptions and if any of these change, we may have to look at things again. ...

There are now three months to the start of the first scheduled trips. If you’re a young person, volunteer or skipper, we will be in touch about your trip. Or if you’re a young person interested in coming on a trip, you can find the latest information and register your interest on our website – Our Trips.

Until then, I want to say a massive thank you to the whole Trust community, our supporters, team and Trustees for all your help, patience and support in the past year. With this news, I hope you can now look forward to, and feel excited about, a brighter summer ahead with the Trust. We can’t wait to see you again.

Come and ask us your questions

We will be hosting a number of online Q&A sessions in the coming weeks to give you a chance to any ask questions you have about our 2021 plans or if you just want to hear the latest information directly from the team.

*this article was updated on 25 May 2021.