DAME Ellen MacArthur paid tribute to the courage of Ripley’s Tom Roberts as they sailed together in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race at the weekend.
Roberts, whose treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma of the spine finished in 2009, had only sailed once before but took to the waves along with MacArthur on the race’s 80th anniversary.
The former Mill Hill School pupil is part of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and together with the record-breaking solo sailor MacArthur was among 16,000 people aboard over 1,900 boats that took on the 55-mile Isle of Wight course.
And MacArthur was impressed by how Roberts has taken to the sailing like a duck to water.
She said: “I’ve been out sailing with lots of young people from The Ellen MacArthur Trust today and for many including Tom this is their first experience of this classic race and that’s been amazing to share with him.
“When we take the young people sailing and they have the experience of being on a boat and living on a boat they experience a great journey.
“Often that journey is nothing to do with sailing, it is the journey of stepping out of their illness and moving on with their lives and getting away from treatment or worries about treatment.
“When you are diagnosed you end up in this world where the only thing you are looking at is the exit and when you reach the exit you are lost.
“Often what we’re able to do on the boat is we’re able to just take them away from that and they can look forward and they can step out. For some young people it can have a profound effect.”
Roberts for one has been well and truly bitten by the sailing bug after first being introduced to the sport by the Trust last year
And the 18-year-old, who is off to Nottingham Trent University in September, was quick to pay tribute to MacArthur for giving him the opportunity to engage in his new passion.
He said: “I have never done the Round the Island Race before so it really was an amazing experience, just to see all those boats on the start line was amazing.
“This was something totally different from anything I have ever done before, I’ve always been interested in sailing and it felt so good to be going fast.”
The J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race is the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK. Organised by the Island Sailing Club, it is dubbed ‘Britain’s favourite yacht race’, attracting over 1,800 yachts and 16,000 competitors.
For more information visit www.roundtheisland.org.uk