Whilst Mark Drewelow doesn’t see anything wrong in the saying that “ charity begins at home, ” he certainly doesn’t advocate it. In fact, the former captain from San Diego spends much of his waking day arranging for medical and educational supplies to be delivered to communities in each corner of the globe.
Mark and his dedicated team of helpers at YachtAid Global (YAG; www.yachtaidglobal.org) are just some of a growing number of admirable sailors who have decided to put their love of yachting and experience at sea to extraordinary use. YAG was founded in 2006 after years of soul-searching by Mark, a yachtie with more than 20 years of experience.
“ I sailed a quarter of a million miles on luxury yachts around the world from 1984 to 2004. Most of this time was spent in remote and undeveloped areas of Mexico, Central America, South America and Southeast Asia, ” he said. “ One of the common themes during those years at sea was that the local people always provided help to the best of their ability no matter what their economic situation. It didn’t matter if I was looking for provisions ashore in Roti, Indonesia, seeking medical aid in Cabo, trying to locate a ride to the airport in the Anambas or looking for fishing information in Niue, in the South Pacific. The local people were always there to help. ”
In 2003, Mark moved ashore to the west coast of America and set up a port agency business in San Diego called C2C. It was here that he had his epiphany. “ I had a great desire to stay connected with communities that I had visited during the years at sea, ” he said. “ One morning in May of 2006, I woke up with a solution to what I was seeking and the perfect name. YachtAid Global was born. Our tag line is ‘ Changing the world without changing course. ’
“ The original idea and the current key concept work: Move school and medical supplies around the world utilizing luxury yachts. This simple concept satisfied the two key missing elements: my need for corporate responsibility and to help out the communities that I know. ”
Over the last five years, YAG has organized deliveries of supplies to countless countries, including Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Bali. YAG sources and purchases the goods for donation from their headquarters in San Diego and uses a growing fleet of willing yachts to distribute the supplies.
“ I now realize that the greater power in all of this is for YAG to be a catalyst to get people thinking and to take action, ” said Mark. “ You don’t have to be part of a formal process and structured environment, although we are here to help out to whatever level that needs to be done to. If you put your mind to it, there’s really no limit to what you can achieve. ”
As Yacht Essentials reported last issue, the owners and crew of Slojo recently put Mark’s comments to the test and completed an onboard triathlon. They raised a staggering $53,100 by biking, running and rowing on deck for 24 hours a day over 12 days.
Meanwhile, on the other coast of America, another outstanding individual has created a benevolent organization to help the disadvantaged children of Miami. Shake-A-Leg (www.shakealegmiami.org) was founded in Newport, Rhode Island, by Harry Horgan after he was paralyzed in a car accident in the late 1980s. Then a young and active 22 year old, Harry was horrified at the rehabilitation programs offered to disabled people like him, so he quite simply decided to set up his own.
Shake-A-Leg Miami now runs a long list of activities and courses to help improve the health, education, independence and quality of life for individuals with physical, developmental and economic challenges.
Harry said: “ The old adage ‘build it and they will come’ is a well-echoed sentiment. At Shake-A-Leg Miami, it is a testament to will and ambition on a grand scale. The Shake-A-Leg Miami Aquatic Center and Marine Academy has been built, and the people are coming!”
Shake-A-Leg Miami is now one of the largest adaptive water sports facilities in America, and has a well-earned reputation for excellence and innovation. “ To witness a child who has never before been in a boat get into a Shake-A-Leg boat and become an active participant of the crew, is a sight that is a supreme delight, ” Harry said.
Another inspirational sailing charity is the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust (www.ellenmacarthurtrust.org), which gives young cancer and leukemia patients the opportunity to experience the thrill of being under sail on the water. The British charity was launched more than eight years ago by Dame Ellen MacArthur, who has for the moment retired from competitive sailing to dedicate her time to charity and environmental work.
Through Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, scores of children and young adults are taught how to sail. The trust now works with every young person’s primary cancer care unit in the UK. “ For these young people, they’ve been though cancer and they’ve been treated differently because of that,” said Dame Ellen. “They’ve become quite isolated, and people don’t know how to talk to them.
“ The really good thing the trust does is it takes these young people away to almost help them forget what they’ve been through, ” she continued. “ They’re sailing with people who have been though exactly the same thing, so they don’t have to talk about it. There’s no need to explain what they’ve been through or what they’re going through. Everyone understands, and it’s an unsaid thing, and everyone just gets on and has fun. That in itself helps build confidence. ”
The trust recently received a boost when Sunsail announced it was to join forces with the charity this summer. The company will provide up to three brand-new Sunsail F40s at a reduced fee for upcoming sailing trips.
“ Sunsail is proud to be working with The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and to be able to help the trust enrich the lives of young people, who have been through so much, ” said Cheryl Powell, Sunsail’s chief operating officer. “ Not only is it good to be able to give something back, but it is a real pleasure to be able to introduce young people into a sport that we at Sunsail are so passionate about. ”
In the same way that The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust helps young cancer sufferers gain confidence through sailing, the Toe in the Water (www.toeinthewater.org) initiative hopes to inspire military service personnel who have sustained traumatic injuries, including the loss of limbs.
The charity was set up in 2008 by Captain Holly King and Tanya Brookfield, who has a background in running professional yacht racing teams. The team now consists of Wo2 Royal Engineer Lloyd Hamilton and army doctor Tom Wood, who work hand-in-hand with specialist complex trauma physiotherapists Jane McLenaghan and Kate Sherman from the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court.
Tanya said: “ The aim of the initiative is simple: to provide injured servicemen and women with a challenging, demanding environment in which they can compete on an equal footing with their peers. ” The keen sailor explained that yacht racing remained one of the few arenas in which people with traumatic injuries can compete against able-bodied people. Sailing is ideal, not least of all because it offers a wide range of different physical and mental challenges.
Toe in the Water works closely with the world-leading rehabilitation effort at Headley Court to give injured servicemen the chance to compete in sailing at a high level whilst improving their self-confidence and outlook on life.
To keep Toe in the Water afloat, the charity is entirely dependant on private contributions as well as volunteers from the military and civilian sailing communities. “ However, the focus shouldn’t be on the hurdles for Toe in the Water or how we have overcome them, ” Tanya said. “ Any issues that we as an organization have faced pale into insignificance when compared to those that the injured men and women that are referred to us have to battle against.
“ It can be unnerving for an able-bodied, non-sailor to step on board a yacht, but compare that to an injured serviceman who only six months ago was fighting in the desert with the use of all his limbs and at the peak of fitness. For that man, who may have only recently learnt to walk again with a prosthetic limb, stepping onto a moving boat will put him into yet another totally unfamiliar environment which will require him to be both quick and dynamic with his movements and stability whilst also learning a new skill set.”
“ In perspective, ” Tanya added, “ the hurdle that Toe in the Water presents in their rehabilitation pathway is relatively small, but crucially, it can be the turning point and a stepping stone to getting on with the rest of their life. ”
Suzanna Chambers worked for the Mail on Sunday, Sunday Express and News of the World before moving to the south of France in 2003. She is now property editor for US magazine France Today and writes articles for various news publications, lifestyle magazines and websites. Her love of yachts began went she went sailing with her father as a child in Poole Dorset, England.
Marine Industry Cares Spin-A-Thon
The Marine Industry Cares Foundation is a new non-profit organization in Ft. Lauderdale that will officially launch with the third annual Spin-A-thon, a fundraising event benefitting Kids in Distress (KID).
“ We saw great enthusiasm in the marine industry for helping causes, which provided us with an opportunity to build a bridge between the maritime community and local charities benefitting children and families, ” said Peter Hult, vice president of MHG Insurance Brokers and a director of Marine Industry Cares.
The first two Spin-A-Thons provided abused and neglected children with more than $100,000. This year, Marine Industry Cares plans to triple the involvement and raise more than $250,000 for KID.
If you’d like to participate in this event, you can organize your own spin team or become an event sponsor. Visit www.marineindustrycares.org for more information.