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Atlantic Lions Maiden Voyage

18th August 2015 by Guest blogger

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In December 2015 four friends who met at the University of Birmingham are going to attempt to row across the Atlantic in aid of the MS Trust. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a 3,000 mile race from La Gomera, Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean and has been dubbed the ‘toughest rowing race on earth’.

Below you can read their latest blog about the Maiden Voyage they made at the weekend.

For more information on the Atlantic lions have a look at their blog: http://atlanticlions.com/ If you want to support the lads you can donate via: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/AtlanticLions

ATLANTIC LIONS MAIDEN VOYAGE

This weekend had long been in our diaries as the first ‘proper outing’. We have been out as a crew together on the river, but never more than a couple of hours at a time and although Matt and Charlie had already spent a night on the boat, that was well within the protection of Christchurch harbour! It was with excitement and unnatural early morning enthusiasm that the boys left London at 6am on Saturday morning and made their way down to Christchurch. Over the last few weeks Cris and his team at Rossiter have worked tirelessly to have the boat ready – including fitting a new rudder cassette, rudder line cleats and VHF radio. So enthusiastic were we that we actually had to wait for the Chandlery to open at 9am to buy a few last minute bits and bobs. It did give us time to squeeze in a few bacon and sausage baguettes prior to departure – always a welcome deviation from the plan!

With ration packs aboard and a chipper radio check with Solent coastguard from Joe we were ready to go! We left Christchurch harbour on the turn of the morning tide and made good progress across the Bay. Electrician Dave had set our way points into the GPS and navigated us in an Easterly Direction towards Hurst point. We had also activated our AIS – automatic identification system, which not only allowed us to identify other vessels, but also allowed bigger ships to see us on their screens probably, long before they would see our small 29ft boat bobbing around in the Solent! We actually arrived at Hurst point ahead of schedule and struggled to make it around the point against the outgoing tide. What we learnt very early on was that even rowing with maximum power we were never going to be able to compete against a 6kt current!

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Though slightly heavier than the powder foods, these taste immeasurably better – and actually resemble real food. They are also more calorific which is going to be essential as we try and keep enough energy going in each day to fuel us across the Atlantic. Pasta bolognese and chicken and mushroom pasta were particular favourites – but it was the unassuming rice pudding that really hit the spot! BTBT also provided us with packs of biltong, squeezy peanut butter, squeeze fruit, a range of nuts and some boiled sweets – which were great to keep the salt taste off our tongues but also provided our daily Vitamin C! Thank you to our food sponsor for their support and we look forward to using more in the coming months!

We eventually made it around Hurst point and had our first real taste of waves in the chop between the mainland and the Isle of Wight. We got into a good rowing routine for about 10 miles up the Solent and picked up a temporary mooring just outside Cowes. We knew that we had a solid row ahead and managed to squeeze ourselves into the cabins for a couple of hours downtime. Charlie was banished to the bow suite and the other three got cosy in the aft cabin – not the most spacious arrangement, but something we’ll have to get used to if weather forces us inside during the race. At midnight we set of westwards back down the channel. Safety officer Slug ensured that were were all in lifejackets and harnesses and it was good practice changing over. Rowing in the dark was initially a little unnerving. Although there were lights from channel buoys, it was difficult to see exactly where we were and so we had a system where two rowed, one helmed, and one was constantly on the GPS, checking our position, altering our bearing, looking out for navigation marks etc. This was a new environment for most of the crew but prior planning and adequate caution meant that we did remarkably well to row a safe passage through the channel and follow the Isle of Wight southwest towards the needles.

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It was off the westerly tip of the island that we encountered our most tricky conditions. Wind vs tide created large swells coming across the beam of the boat as we tried to head Northwards back into the bay. Charlie and Matt struggled to make useful strokes, with one oar up and one oar down most of the time – often taking airstrokes and sharing a number of simultaneous curses! Making their way slowly through some of the worst of this chop it was time for Dave and Joe to put in a real shift. Although the waves settled slightly, the north westerly current was relentless and constantly trying to push us off course. The boys battled hard for an hour and made slow but steady progress northwards – despite only travelling about 2nm true distance in 2hrs it was by far the hardest the crew had rowed and made all the more difficult in the dark! Sunrise came as a welcome reward for our efforts and eventually the south coast began to get steadily closer as we made our way back to Christchurch.

All in all this weekend had been a huge success. We had achieved the objectives of our first outing – to be out on the boat for 24 hours as a crew, row through darkness, test some of our equipment, practice navigating between waypoints and eat from ration packs. The route had been testing for it’s own reasons, primarily the strength of the currents and the business of the traffic through the Solent – and there were important lessons learnt from these. Some 40 nautical miles and a few blisters later only puts into perspective the challenge ahead – 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

If you would like to find out more on the Atlantic Lions please email fundraising@mstrust.org.uk great sponsorship opportunities are still available.

Skydiving to support two very special people

5th August 2015 by laura.percival

This Friday Katie will be jumping out of an aeroplane at 10,000ft to raise money for two charities that mean a lot to her and her family.

Katie and her mother

My name is Katie Waite and I am 20 years old. On Friday 7th August I will be doing a skydive to raise money for MS Trust and Crohn’s & Colitis UK. I am raising money for these two charities as they are very special and personal to me. I have chosen to raise money for these charities as my father was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in November 2003 and my mother was diagnosed with MS in June 2006. My mother is the strongest person in my life and my idol. To see how my mam deals with her disease inspires me to be a better person each and every day. The MS Trust also inspires me to do better and help others as they are such an amazing charity.

Medication and research for MS has rapidly grown over the years which helps sufferers a great deal. Unfortunately, when my Grandma and Great Aunty were alive they also suffered from MS and there was not the support and help that there is today. My Grandma was diagnosed with MS in 1976 when my mother was 13 years old. She was given basic steroids for the disease as no other treatment was available during this time as there was not enough knowledge. My Grandma in her final years deteriorated fast from the disease being unable to walk and use her limbs. She later in life developed a chest infection which then developed into pneumonia and sadly died in 1988. Charities like MS Trust have helped so many people who are diagnosed with MS to get support and medication and they have raised much more awareness about the disease.

My mother was first diagnosed with optic neuritis in 1993 which is inflammation of the optic nerve and can be a sign of MS. She later developed more symptoms of MS and was diagnosed in June 2006. My mam has been given different kinds of medication to help her as she suffers from mild relapses. Her first type of medication was Avonex which is an injection which my mam carried out herself at home. She was then put onto Fingolimod which is an oral tablet and she is now currently being treated with Tysabri. For this she travels over to Newcastle from our home in Cumbria once every four weeks for intravenous infusions.

My whole family is very grateful for the support and help my mother receives from the NHS and from the MS Trust. That is why it is so important that we keep raising money for the charity to enable more research to be carried out and more support to be offered. I would be very grateful if anyone reading my blog could help me raise money for MS and sponsor me for my skydive. Every donation is massively appreciated and I am very grateful for you taking the time to read my blog. Hopefully together we can all raise more money to fight MS!

Sponsor Katie on her Justgiving page

Find out how you can take part in a skydive

Running for answers: why I’m running 10K for MS Trust

26th June 2015 by laura.percival

With only one week left to register for the British 10K London Run which takes place on 12 July, Helena from our web team tells us why she feels inspired to run this year and how she is fitting in her training around family life.

Helena and her two children

Do you love running? I’ve noticed a lot of my friends lately have been taking up running, some of them even training for marathons. Now I have never been what you call athletic, to be completely honest with you I couldn’t run for toffee until a few years ago! What changed? Well I was inspired by all the great people I would see taking part in runs for the MS Trust and I thought, maybe, I could do something too. But what?

From couch to 5K

Someone in the office suggested I could do the 5K London Super Hero Run. I was scared at first – even though I walk a lot (I don’t have a car), I was never able to do any running. A friend of mine then told me that she was the same, until she started using the ‘Couch to 5K’ app on her telephone. It is a programme that starts you off with a mixture of walking and then running gradually, until you run more and walk less, and the goal is that you can then run the whole 5K. So I gave it a try and it was hard at first, but it got easier. So I signed up for the Super Hero Run. And then I did that run for 2 more years.

This year I have signed up for the British 10K London Run. I decided to do so as I really wanted to take part in this great event. I have been working at the MS Trust since 2007 and I’ve seen lots of inspiring people take part. But also I want to raise money to support the important work our Information Team does.

My MS experience

This summer it will be exactly 9 years since I had my first ever MS relapse. Going through diagnosis, and more confusing and painful relapses, left me feeling quite alone in the world. Whilst waiting to be contacted by an MS nurse (there was a long waiting time between diagnosis and seeing a nurse) I reached out to the MS Trust and I found answers to a lot of the questions I had. Mostly it calmed me down a little and it made me realise that life was not different from yesterday even though I now had this MS label slapped on me.

A few months later I found myself working for the MS Trust as a part of their Web Team. One of the first things I did when I started was set up a Facebook group. This group now has well over 6000 members and is very active. Every day when I come in to work I search through the group and make sure we try to answer any questions people have about MS that we can help with. I have been there myself and I know how important peer support is, but also to have the MS Trust Information Team there helping out is fantastic. So this is my reason for wanting to run the 10K.

Training with a one-year-old

I am doing the race together with my good friend Gayle. We both have very active one-year-olds and find ourselves mostly training by running around after our kids. In fact I was asked to let people know how I find the time to train these days. I tried to explain it in the video below.

There is one week left to sign up for the British 10K London Run and run with me and the other fantastic MS Trust supporters, sign up today!

Visit Helena & Gayle’s online fundraising page

Jamie’s Tough Mudder challenge

18th June 2015 by laura.percival

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Jamie Wilson was diagnosed with MS only last month, but it has encouraged him to take on a challenge which involves getting very wet and muddy! On Saturday 20 June Jamie will face the Tough Mudder Scotland and here he tells us why.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on Monday 18 May 2015 following a series of tests over the course of a year, which started when I lost the hearing in my left ear! This has made me want to push myself and do my bit for a charity supporting those who have MS and who might be in a worse condition that myself.

I will be competing in a 13 mile assault course known as “Tough Mudder” at Drumlanrig Castle in Thornhill. For anyone who doesn’t know what the Tough Mudder is, here is what the event organisers say:

“Drumlanrig is a fairytale castle set in 80,000 acres of the most majestic, scenic Scottish countryside you’ll ever see. Sound nice? Well you can forget “nice” because Tough Mudder is turning the fairytale into your worst nightmare. Lung busting hills, ice cold lochs and strength sapping mud combine to make the home of the Braveheart legend a brutal test for the most seasoned Legionnaire and a baptism of fire for first time Mudders. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”

As well as raising sponsorship, I have been selling wee pin badges and giving out leaflets to try and raise some general awareness of the MS Trust.

The picture shows me taking part in a practice run that we did for a local charity.

Jamie has already raised over £1,000 to help us support people with MS but if you would like to help him raise even more you can donate on his Justgiving page or you can text JWMS99 £5 to 70070 to donate £5.

My Big (out of the) Blue Jump

22nd May 2015 by laura.percival

MS Trust Fundraising Officer Jess Wright tells us about the Big Blue Jump which took place during MS Awareness Week and her own impromptu parachute jump.

The morning of Saturday 2nd May was an early one. We were heading down to Chiltern Park Aerodrome in Oxfordshire to meet all our supporters taking part in the Big Blue Jump, the MS Trust’s parachuting day to mark the end of MS Awareness Week 2015. I was slightly nervous as the clouds formed, knowing we had people travelling from across the country (and two families taking a ferry from the Isle of Wight) to take part in the event. We had our fingers crossed that the weather, the skydive event planner’s biggest opponent, wouldn’t ruin this day. Little did I know this was the least of my worries for the day ahead…

Eddie Murphy and Ben Clarke

The clouds clear

It was really great to meet all 11 participants and their families and friends who had travelled miles to support them on the day. As the clouds were clearing, the first two MS Trust skydivers were up in a plane ready to go. Eddie Murphy (in his pink onesie) and Ben Clarke floated to the ground with smiles from ear to ear.

Next up was David Optholt, who bravely jumped and landed safely back on the ground, then Paul Drake stepped up to the mark and took the leap of faith. Paul had previously suggested I should take part – I’d quickly changed the subject!

Later in the day it was Donna James and Anthony Morris’ turn to go up in a plane, along with Aurore Palomba and Ksenia Goryainova. They faced their fears together and completed their tandem skydives.

It was so great to see everyone in the group get through the nerves and the anticipation, fly up to 10,000 feet and jump out of a plane. You could ask yourself, why go through it all? It was clear that each of the participants wanted to take part because MS had affected their lives in one way or another and they wanted to make a difference.

No place to hide

You are probably wondering how I got to be part of this day, other than happily cheering our skydivers back to the airfield from the side lines. The suggestion was made for me to take part not just in a conversation with Paul, but on a loud speaker (thanks to Emma and Martin from the London Parachute School) followed by cheers and agreements from the MS Trust crowd! There was no place to hide! Having seen the others complete their skydives and face their fears, frankly there was no real excuse for me not to take part.

Next thing I know, I am whisked off to complete my skydive training, there is no going back now! I was lucky enough to join MS Trust supporters Alyson, Jeanette and Jennifer in the plane.

Alyson, Jess, Emma, Jeanette and Jennifer

Bit of a blur

Lots of people have asked me what it was like. To be honest it was a bit of a blur. When Paul (my tandem instructor) and I hung out of the plane doors it was really scary, but there was no time to be scared as the next thing I knew we were freefalling really, really, really fast into the clouds over the Oxfordshire countryside. This was simply exhilarating. I screamed… a lot (sorry Paul).

When the parachute was deployed the fast, noisy, rush quickly changed to silence. This just demonstrated how high up we were, miles away from any noise from the ground (except for the giggles from Paul at HOW MUCH I screamed). The view was amazing, something that cannot be compared to any HD screen, and stretched for miles and miles. The only thing in front of your view is your feet dangling over it all as you look down. This was the time I could take in everything around me and what I will remember the most – gliding and spinning back to the ground with one big (blue) bump! As the last skydiver of the Big Blue Jump the grin on my face must have mirrored everyone else’s I had already seen that day.

A day I will never forget

I am so glad I got to meet all the wonderful people who joined us for the Big Blue Jump on 2 May 2015 and made the day one I will never, ever forget.

If you are thinking of taking part in a skydive, DO IT! I hate flying and, if anything, I think it helped me to feel better for the next time I travel by plane. It is an such an incredible feeling which is only made better knowing that the money you raise from doing it will help those living with MS today!

I would like to say an extra thank you to Nigel Synnott and Brian Charlesworth, who unfortunately couldn’t take part but came to support on the day!

Visit Jess’s fundraising page on Virgin Money Giving

Find out how you can book your own skydive

15 minutes with MS Trust Research Manager Tracy Nicholson

11th May 2015 by Guest blogger

Tracy NicholsonTracy Nicholson is the Research Manager at the MS Trust. She was diagnosed with MS in 2000. To celebrate their 50th birthdays, she and her friend Katrina decided to do a cycle, trek and kayak adventure in North Vietnam to raise funds for the MS Trust.

How did you come to work for the MS Trust?

I was diagnosed with MS in 2000. Back then information about MS wasn’t widely available, but at the time, quite coincidentally, my husband was working on the development of the MS drug Tysabri, so he had been working with the MS Trust. He introduced me to Chris Jones, the founder of the Trust, and she was absolutely brilliant – she really understood what I was going through. I lived quite near the Trust’s offices in Letchworth so she asked me to come in and meet the team. It was about the time that the Trust was thinking about becoming involved in the Risk-sharing Scheme to help people with MS access the first four MS drugs. I was working in clinical research at the time so they asked if I would be interested in helping out.

What difference do you think the Risk-sharing Scheme has made for people with MS?

I know it’s made a huge difference. I was diagnosed by a general neurologist in a hospital without any specialist MS nurse. When I compare that to now – when I have an MS specialist neurologist, an MS specialist centre, an MS nurse and I get six-monthly reviews – it’s come so far. And that’s because of the Risk-sharing Scheme.

How did your Vietnam trek come about?

It came out of turning 50. I’ve never really travelled. I’ve been to lots of places but I’ve never packed a backpack and gone off into the unknown. So this was my opportunity to do it. The trip itself was completely self-funded. We found the trip we wanted to do and all my friends and family gave donations towards my ticket in lieu of 50th birthday presents. I had already made the decision that I was going to challenge myself but then I thought it would be good if the MS Trust could benefit on the back of it.

What was the most challenging part of the journey?

The weather! We were led to believe it would be 16-19 degrees at this time of year – we thought it would be like a nice English summer. In reality it was 30-35ºC and incredibly humid. The accommodation was also quite challenging. We stayed in homestays (local villagers’ own homes) and it is fair to say that I didn’t really know what to expect. Staying in the equivalent to a hut, sleeping on thin mattresses in open rooms with people I didn’t know, both men and women, and needless to say no privacy! Not my ideal for a good, restful night. And then there were the toilets – it made France in the 1970s look positively luxurious!

What was the highlight?

Travelling through the villages and the insight into the locals’ lives. It felt a real privilege to have been able to get up close and personal. Their lives are so different from ours, with so little material wealth, but they are so happy. I’ve never done anything like that. I think if you went as a tourist you simply wouldn’t get that insight into the country: the rice paddies and the buffalo.

What kept you going?

At one point I got really sick and people were telling me I didn’t have to do the 50k cycle ride planned for the following day. But I kept saying I do have to do it! A big part of my motivation was that I kept thinking all those people who had sponsored me and raised all that money. I know what the MS Trust does. I know all the things they do, all their enthusiasm and energy. And I know that it’s all done on a tight budget. Every penny counts. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the amount you raise is, whether it’s £5, £50 or £500 it can make a real difference to someone living with MS.

What would you say to someone considering taking on a similar challenge?

Just do it! I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. But once I got there, it was amazing how you just get into the zone. And it’s amazing what you can do. You just focus on the challenge and getting through each day and as I look back now I feel enormously proud of what I have achieved for both myself and the MS Trust. It was a great experience in a stunning part of the world and it has left me with so many great memories.


This article is part of the May 2015 issue of Open Door, the MS Trust’s quarterly newsletter.

Thank you for making our work possible

11th May 2015 by Guest blogger

Did you know that we received £1.1 million last year from people like you raising funds and donating?

Combined images600x297THAT’S EQUIVALENT TO what we spent in the same year providing information, campaigning on the things that matter to people living with MS and funding research to improve services, treatment and support.

Your support really does make a difference for everyone who contacts the MS Trust. Every person who wants to know how they can manage a new symptom, choose between treatment options, find better ways to cope at work or support a family member who has been recently diagnosed. We can only be there at the end of the phone or online thanks to you.

When we talk about fundraising, we’re not just talking about extreme challenges and activities like running, skydiving and trekking. Last year we received £2,824 thanks to people who remembered to visit our page of shopping links before they shopped online with stores like Amazon, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis. That’s enough to run our freephone MS information service for a week.

We rely on lots of generous people who take time out of their busy lives to do something – anything – to help people whose lives are affected by MS. That might be getting sponsored for a personal challenge like giving up chocolate for a month, selling homemade jam or greetings cards, or holding a charity event like an open garden or pub quiz. Almost 3,000 people supported us in 2014 by raising funds or donating and we are extremely grateful to every one of them. You can read some of their stories online in our Fundraising Hall of Fame.

At the end of last year, Jennifer Cooper’s Rainbow group raised £180 by holding a sponsored obstacle race as part of our Reindeer Rally campaign. Jennifer, who lives in Bradford, told us that she wanted to support the MS Trust because her family had found our information useful when her mother was diagnosed.

She said, “My mam was diagnosed with MS eight years ago after living with it for more than twenty years undiagnosed. When we first found out it was hard to come to terms with because we knew nothing about it, but the hardest thing was telling my then eight year old niece and six year old nephew.”

“This is where the MS Trust came in. The literature they supply is amazing and made it easier to explain to my niece and nephew what was happening to their Grandma. When the opportunity came for me to be able to give something back I had to jump at the chance. I knew my Rainbow unit would thoroughly enjoy the Reindeer Rally. We can’t wait to do it again next year.”

Thanks to Jennifer and the children at Rainbows, we can now provide copies of our Kids’ guide to MS and the accompanying book for parents, Talking with your kids about MS, to help another 30 families who are in a similar situation.

There are all sorts of ways of getting involved and raising funds, which help us do all sorts of things to help people with MS – from producing this newsletter every three months, to training each new MS nurse that comes into post.

If you would like to help raise funds to support the MS Trust’s work, we can find something for you. We run a programme of fun events throughout the year, some of which are listed to the right; we can also provide support materials for any fundraising activity you’d like to do independently. And there are lots of different ways to donate, including setting up a regular monthly or annual gift by Direct Debit, playing our weekly lottery or supporting an appeal.

With your help we can make even more of a difference for the 100,000 people living with MS in the UK, and the 100 people who are diagnosed every week. For more information, please get in touch with our fundraising team on 01462 476707 or fundraising@mstrust.org.uk.


This article is part of the May 2015 issue of Open Door, the MS Trust’s quarterly newsletter.

Butterworths’ Virtual Bike Ride for MS Awareness Week

21st April 2015 by laura.percival

Katie Richardson tells us why she encouraged her whole company to get involved in raising funds this MS Awareness Week.

My mum Julie was only 47 years old when the symptoms of MS started. She worked full time and loved her job as a retail manager, thriving as a full time working mother and wife. She was finally diagnosed 7 years later with primary progressive MS, a form of the disease which affects 10-15% of people diagnosed with MS. It took some time, a lot of uncertainty and lots of testing before the final diagnosis of MS was received.

Over the course of 13 years, my family and I have watched Mum go from an independent working woman, to being entirely reliant on us all. Being completely paralysed down her right side, every day chores which we take for granted such as eating, walking, writing, sleeping, even holding her grandchildren, are now impossible without aid. All of our lives have changed. My dad, James, retired early to become Mum’s full time carer.

MS is a disease that not only affects the person who has it, but it affects the family also. The MS Trust is there to support every person with MS in the UK AND their families by providing information, educational events and publications to people with MS, families, friends and health care professionals who provide support for anyone affected by the disease.

Mum’s MS Nurse Barbara Wingrove of Sunderland Royal Hospital is a lifeline to Mum and our family. The help and support provided at every appointment is vital, and for which we are very grateful.

Getting through times like these can be difficult, yet without the work that the MS Trust carries out daily, it would be so much harder. We are so very grateful for every day’s work and every campaign that the MS Trust does. In order to say ‘thank you’, we want to give a little back and support the MS Trust.

Butterworths Solicitors

During MS Awareness Week, to raise funds and awareness for MS, we are completing a Virtual Bike Ride from Team Valley in Gateshead to Paris! We will be taking it in turns to cycle on an exercise bike to cover a total of 583 miles.

Our team is from Butterworths Solicitors, a law firm based in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. Butterworths also have offices in Carlisle, Penrith and Bury, and fundraising is taking place across our offices during MS Awareness Week. I have been with the firm for many years now and our team is very close, supporting each other every day. I am so proud and honoured to be part of the Butterworths Team and that everyone is getting involved in our fundraising event.

Each and every member of the firm is doing their bit and spreading the word. Mark and Karl came up with the idea of a Virtual Bike Ride to Paris, which we all felt was the perfect opportunity to get our whole team involved in raising funds and awareness. I am so grateful to everyone for their ideas and commitment in a bid to help other people with MS and families around the UK.

The Butterworths Team are Katie, Laura, Adele, Jemma, Mark, Karl, Rebekah, John, Nicci, Sean, Vikki, Sarah, Natalie, Jessica, Danielle, Carole, Angela, Joanna, Shannon, Emma, Kay and Chelsea

1 Bike, 1 Team. from Team Valley in Gateshead to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Butterworths are being Bold in Blue!! Please support our campaign, every little helps. Thank you to each and every one of you. Go Team! Visit the Butterworths Solicitors fundraising page

MS Awareness Week runs from 27 April to 3 May and this year we want to highlight the importance of MS specialist services. If you would like to get involved and raise funds to help make sure people with MS can access the best possible care, find out more about our Be Bold in Blue fundraising campaign.

Atlantic Lions: an update on the boat

13th April 2015 by Stephen

People often ask ‘how are you getting on with everything for the row?’ And if I’ve got the energy to answer properly, then they have unwittingly let themselves in for a good 30 minute monologue about the gym, food, the success of fundraising events to date, the heartache of the eternal sponsorship search and more food. But there is one thing that they are all interested in more than anything else – the boat. And perhaps quite rightly, as it may well be the most important thing in all of this.

This will be the vessel we use to pull ourselves 3000 miles across the ocean, the seats from which we will row – two hours on and two hours off until we make land fall. In favorable seas it will be our chariot to stride out across the Atlantic, our skiff to surf down waves and pull over the crest of the next. On calm nights it will be our observatory to the stars, dwarfed by the expanse and depth of surrounding darkness. But when the weather turns it needs to be our guardian, our sanctuary from the roaring wind and lashing rain. It needs to self-right and it needs to be water-tight. When all around is against us, it needs to keep us safe. It will be our kitchen, our bathroom and our bedroom, our look out and communication tower. It is to be our home for our time at sea, it is the fifth member of our team and we need to get it right.

‘Tiny Dancer’ was built in 2013 for the last Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. She was a brand new boat for the Atlantic Polo Team – a team of professional polo players (but novice rowers) who went on to win the race that year in 48 days. Just three months later she set out from Australia to Mauritius with the Fast Row West crew and set a new world record for the fasted four-man crossing of the Indian Ocean ever. Still less than 18 months old, she already has a fair reputation behind her!

She is made of carbon and 29ft long and 6ft at her widest. The fore cabin is smaller than the rear and will house mainly equipment (and sometimes Dave). The mid-portion of the boat is all deck and dominated by two rowing positions – seats on sliders just like a concept2 with oar-locks where each rower will have two oars. Down either side of the sliders are hatches which will be filled with ballast, dehydrated rations, energy bars and jelly beans! The life raft and power anchor will sit at the feet of the stern rower. The power anchor is a bit like an underwater parachute and is deployed in bad weather to try and hold your position. In comparison to most traditional boats (where this would live inside) this has its own outside locker to keep the wet rope and fabric out of the ‘dry’ cabin! Another modification is the positioning of the water maker, which has also been moved to a separate locker accessible from the outside. The aft cabin itself houses the electrics, fed from three solar panels and a battery supply. This powers everything from the water maker to the radio, the sat phone and chart plotters. The cabin isn’t exactly spacious but it is even long enough even for the lanky lion to have a little stretch in!

The boat is currently living at Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, where experienced boat surveyor John-Kenneth Habbershaw (www.willmyboatfloat.com) went to see her. He has put together a comprehensive report of the boat after examining it inch by inch. The exterior and fixings, interior cabins, cockpits and lockers, the drop keel, rudder and steering systems have all been scrutinised to the highest degree. In general we are delighted to say that she is in fantastic shape having been pushed so hard across two oceans. There is a small amount of work to be done before we can get her on the water and we are in the process of arranging that within the next fortnight.

She is currently decorated with supporters of her previous challenge, but now becomes a blank canvas for companies or individuals looking to sponsor us. Across the face of the stern cabin will sit the names of our cherished ‘100 Club’ –the generosity of our closest supporters who will be our inspiration and constantly within our sight as we pull this boat towards Antigua. Across the length of the hull is 29ft of blank advertising space. We will be rowing a twice-proven race-winning boat by a crew who are dedicated to winning the 2015 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. If this is something your company (or someone you know) would be interested in supporting then please get in touch info@atlanticlions.com or download our sponsorship pack.

Find out more about the Atlantic Lions’ attempt to row across the Atlantic Ocean for the MS Trust

The inspiration behind my boxing challenge

2nd April 2015 by laura.percival

After meeting and falling in love with his partner Tarina who has MS nine years ago, John Post wanted to give something back for the support they have received over the years. He has signed up for a sponsored Zero to Hero White Collar Boxing challenge and has 10 weeks to get fit, learn to box and then perform in a full contact event in an arena. Here he tells us more about the inspiration behind his challenge.

John Post

I met my long term partner Tarina nine years ago in hospital, she was recovering from an MS relapse and learning to walk again. I was a patient myself with an undiagnosed problem that left my legs like dead weights, a problem that I have not had again since I recovered. It was a very scary time for me as it occurred overnight, but every cloud has a silver lining.

Tarina was incredible. Despite everything she was still smiling and wheeling herself ward to ward for a chat when she was able to. She really helped me get through a tough time, as well as others. It didn’t hurt that she was gorgeous, truth be told I fell in love with her straight away. It wasn’t just her looks, she was everything I ever wanted in a woman – intelligent, funny and strong. I knew she would always challenge me and I would always want to make her happy. What more can any man want?

We became good friends and over time we became a couple and I have never been happier. While I have not had any problems since, the same cannot be said for my partner. It has been difficult at times and anyone who has experience of MS will know that it’s so unpredictable how you will be on any given day.

Striking a balance

As a partner it is difficult to strike a balance that’s supportive but not smothering, to be understanding but strong. For me the biggest thing was knowledge of what to expect and how to find this balance. I have gained a lot of knowledge through the MS Trust among other sources, like many I have learnt along the way.

Let’s face it, no one wants to be reminded of something difficult in their lives every day and constantly talk about it, especially when it’s with your partner as it can really strain a relationship from both sides. The need to gain knowledge and talk still needs to be fulfilled but a third party is the right option sometimes. Whatever your problems may be you need to enjoy your life and not constantly dwell on them, no prizes for guessing who taught me that one!

Giving something back

I never really got fit again after my time in hospital so this is a big challenge for me personally, which is the bit that is selfish in some respects. I have wanted to do something for a long time to give something back for the help we have had over the years. Now I have the capacity to do more I intend to.

I felt this was an appropriate event to do as it requires me to build and maintain both physical and mental strength and stamina, and fight my own body and mind into submission to do what I need it to even when it hurts (and it will). This is but a few months for me, but it is something I believe symbolizes what people with MS do every day and it is truly amazing.

While those of us who care about, live with or support anyone with MS will never truly understand how they feel, and I do not presume to, it’s important that we never stop listening, learning, trying and most importantly loving.

We all do charitable things in our own way and have different means to do so, even if every person who reads this donates a pound it will soon mount up and help ensure this support remains available and research continues. Please don’t let me dissuade you if you are able to be or feel more generous.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and for your support, monetary or otherwise, as I am sure you will all wish me the best.

Visit John’s online fundraising page where you can make a donation