Three men… in a boat…
In July 2007 I competed as part of a team of three very unusual sailors in the North Sea Yacht Race. A gruelling test of sailing expertise and endurance, The North Sea Yacht Race is one of the longest and perhaps most challenging ocean races in Northern Europe – across the North Sea between Stavanger in Norway and Macduff in Scotland.
Photo: Tony Marsh
What made this particular team of sailors unique, was the fact that all three of us were amputees – each of us was missing one or more of our hands and feet.
Stuart, the team skipper, was born in 1960 without any fingers on his left hand, although a series of operations during childhood created for Stuart a small thumb (a digit vital to the team’s prospects of success!).
Never one to let disability stand in his way, Stuart has learned to make the most of the limbs that he does have, performing most everyday activities as well as anyone else, and enjoying successful careers as a therapeutic woodwork teacher and designer of therapeutic aids.
Although he has pursued a love of the mountains since the age of nineteen, Stuart’s primary passion is sailing. With 25 years of sailing under his belt, including dinghy sailing, day racing, and many longer passages in all states of sea and weather, Stuart brought a wealth of experience to the venture, as well, of course, as the boat Mrs Chippy, which is his third yacht.
Born in 1953 in Derbyshire, Alan chose an active outdoor lifestyle from an early age and has been a keen climber, skier, ski tourer and sailor for many years. A move to the Isle of Skye in 1991 to set up a pottery business allowed Alan to continue his pursuit of these activities and he joined the Skye Mountain Rescue Team in 1993.
Life took an unexpected turn for Alan in May 2006 when a motorcycle accident necessitated the amputation of his right leg below the knee. Undaunted Alan has made an amazingly swift recovery and throws himself with gusto into the task of reclaiming the life he had before his accident. An experienced skipper in his own right Alan isa hugely competent crew member and has completed many difficult passages including crossing the North Sea in previous years. The team’s closest answer to Long John Silver.
In addition to all my other activities, I have always been a keen sailor and have a wealth of experience exploring the islands and coastal waters of Scotland. When the call comes out, ‘All hands on deck!’, I am the only crew member who can legitimately stay down below in my bunk!
The team’s boat is co-owned by Stuart and his long-time sailing partner Toby Clark. She is called Mrs Chippy and is a 31 foot Beneteau Oceanis Clipper 311. Mrs Chippy is named after the remarkable carpenter’s cat who sailed aboard The Endurance on Shackleton’s ill-fated polar expedition of 1914.
In all, Challenge 3 raised over £10,000 for the charity co-founded by Jamie, 500 miles.
Amputees such as the Angolan children pictured, depend on overseas aid for prosthetic treatment, and in a country where survival is a daily struggle, a simple prosthetic leg can mean the difference between life and death.
Learn more about how we got on in the North Sea Yacht Race here.