Just under a week ago on a cold, damp and grey morning, a group of celebrities started a journey that will changed their lives forever. I've been following the #hellonhighseas team as they sailed their way from Belfast to London and as they approach their destination (hopefully to crowds of cheers) hopefully they will look back on how they have inspired a lot of people.
The voyage saw them leave Belfast with not much wind but the Skipper, Ian Walker, could see from the forecasts that there was significant weather approaching. Very quickly it became a race against mother nature to get around Lands End and bear away from the weather. Storm Force winds caught them just 30 miles from Plymouth and they made the very correct seamanlike decision to pull in and allow the weather to go through.
The personal journeys that the celebrities must have gone through in the first few days must have been immense and I can completely relate to how they would have felt in the dark with howling winds and a pitching deck fighting to windward in 30+ knots of wind!
What has amazed me is how with that one unplanned stop in Plymouth, people have been so inspired by the story. It has captured the imagination of so many. The people of Plymouth rallied around the 'big red boat' and whilst she was here I know she had visitors from the Leader of the Council, to primary school children. The visit from the team inspired many in Plymouth to remember their city's connection with the sea.
My own inspiration from the #hellonhighseas voyage has been in reading the many updates on twitter and facebook and realising that the personal journey that the celebrities have experienced parallels to everything that happens on a sail training voyage. I would love the opportunity some day to talk to them about what they went through!
Adventures like the BBC Sport Relief #Hellonhighseas have the ability to capture the imagination of everyone and as Gael Pawson mentioned...
While the focus, as the hashtag might suggest, has been on the discomfort of sailing a Volvo Ocean Race yacht in cold, wet and windy conditions, what has been good for the sport is the good humour and humanity of our top athletes... This is not your super-rich 'yachting' that the media, even these days, often portrays. Not your royal yacht club, not your blazer-clad aristocrat, not your gleaming superyacht. These are racing machines, driven by sportsmen, who come across as real and decent people, which of course is what us 'yachties' mostly are. While the conditions might not be the most ideal and #hellonhighseas might not be 'selling' the sport in all its potential glory, there is some real insight into the many and varied pleasures of sailing.
What the #Hellonhighseas voyage does sell is that of the value of sail training. The personal journeys that the celebrities have faced and got through will have been amazing! Unlike things like Big Brother the celebrities couldn't escape, couldn't run, and had to confront fears, tiredness, and overcome all of them to succeed.
As they slowly glide up the river Thames they will be looking back on all they have accomplished and will be amazed at what they can do! Sail Training voyages do this every time they leave the dock and it truly changes lives and inspires so many.
Which brings me full circle to our own personal journey. Getting Helen Mary R sailing again is so important to us. (my wife and I) As we follow the #hellonhighseas voyage it only drives us further forward and inspires us to continue to fight to get the rigging replaced. The boat coded and importantly inspiring young people!
I aspire to the time that Plymouth sees Helen Mary R as their boat, and look at her in the same way as they did when the 'big red boat' popped in to shelter from the weather. It has certainly been a journey, there have been ups and downs and dark days but one thing remains, you can guarantee that we will cross our own finish line! Thanks for inspiring us #hellonhighseas!