AWEIGH WE GO; HOPE SAILING LEGEND'S BOOST FOR CANCER YOUNGSTERS Dame Ellen's new centre offers sufferers a taste of life on the ocean wave.
SAILING legend Dame Ellen MacArthur is helping hundreds of Scottish cancer sufferers to take to the open sea and turn their lives around.
The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust have opened a base in Largs where youngsters recovering from the illness can reclaim their selfconfidence and bond with others who are literally in the same boat.
We spoke to several young people who were inspired to take up the challenge by Ellen, who in 2004 became the fastest person to sail solo round the world.
They said the adventure saved them from the isolation which affects many cancer sufferers and set them on course for adulthood with a wind in their sails.
The new base at Largs Yacht Haven was set up with the help of PS100,000 from the People's Postcode Lottery and took 22 people sailing on the Clyde and beyond in 2013.
Ellen, 38, said that next year, it will accommodate 10 times as many youngsters - and by 2017, it will be up to the same capacity as her original centre at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight.
The idea was inspired by a meeting with a French girl called Maria before Ellen came second in the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world race and became a household name in the UK. She said: "Maria's brother suffered from leukaemia and she asked if I'd sail with them. I jumped at the chance.
"I hadn't worked with young people before - certainly not young people with cancer or leukaemia. Within months, I was having more fun than I'd had in years."
Ellen carried a plaque on her record-breaking voyage with the names of 100 cancer sufferers.
And she thought of them when she capsized in the freezing Southern Ocean in 80ft waves and had to risk her life to fix her mast.
She said: "Suddenly in my head I got the kids - they were following my progress round the world. I had to go down that mast for them."
Within three years, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust were supplying yachts where young people could test themselves, working as a team and getting involved in everything from taking the helm to cooking.
Ellen said: "No one can know what it's like to be given a cancer diagnosis and to face the treatment programme that entails.
"It can be lonely and terrifying and we wanted to provide some respite from that and a way for young people to meet with others in a similar situation.
"Some want to talk about it and some don't - but everyone understands. They all feel they are in it together and I am confident that every person we meet in this way feels a benefit."
Jodie Waters told how the charity changed her life as she recovered from treatment for a brain tumour in 2007.
The 24-year-old from Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway, said: "I was in the Sea Cadets before my diagnosis but since I became ill, my confidence was absolutely shattered.
"I was living a separate life from people my age. I didn't want to be regarded as different, but I was.
"It was really hard at the time to put myself out there but it was the best thing I have ever done in my life. We were all in the same situation and everyone warmed to that idea very quickly.
"Ellen is such an inspirational and strong person but she is really down-to-earth too. She insists on coming along to as many trips as possible and really enjoys meeting people and talking to them.
"The facility at Cowes is great but it's quite far away. For people coming to a place closer to home, with this incredible shore, is a great privilege."
Chloe Parsons, 22, from London, was treated for bone cancer in 2008. She first encountered the trust three years later and is still involved today.
She said: "My confidence was shattered and I missed so much schooling. The sailing trips saved me from so much isolation and unhappiness. I'm so excited to be giving a little back. Ellen is truly inspirational and she is improving the lives of so many people."
Kristie Reid, 22, from Aberdeen, developed a soft-tissue tumour when she was 17. It meant the muscle on her arm was removed and she had to endure chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She said: "I felt terrified and very alone. The trust put me in a situation with other people who knew what I was going through. It made me see so many positives and make real forward steps."
Facing a cancer diagnosis can be lonely. We wanted to provide respite DAME ELLEN
OPP PPORTUN RTUNITY Ellen's Cancer Trust
INSPIRED Recruits Chloe Parsons and Jodie Waters
BOSS The trusts's Scottish manager, Mark Lambie
ALL HANDS ON DECK Ellen and the girls at Largs
SET SAIL Ellen launches new centre with Kristie Reid and Kirstie Patterson. Pics: Phil Dye