Oceans of Hope’s mission to change perceptions of multiple sclerosis and forge strong links between the MS and sailing communities continues at full throttle in La Rochelle.
Yesterday afternoon a group of French visitors with MS climbed on board to sail for a few hours in the bay outside La Rochelle. Everyone took turns at helming the yacht and the smiles on faces as Oceans of Hope returned to her berth were priceless.
The taster sail was followed by aperitifs on board; contact details were exchanged amongst new friends, many of whom had travelled several hundred kilometres to take part in the event, and language barriers were broken down as people conversed in an entertaining mix of French, English, Danish, Dutch and even a smattering of Arabic.
There was a real sense of joy as the evening drew to a close with an impromptu dance on the pontoon, everyone incapable of staying still as the music of Ben l’Oncle Soul drifted across the old port from the main stage of the Francofolies music festival which is in full swing in town.
Jens Als Andersen, Oceans of Hope’s Boat Manager, who has been sailing on board since joining the crew in Amsterdam, presented a photo signed by all of the crew to the delegation from AFSEP, the Association Française des Sclérosés en Plaques, who welcomed the crew so warmly on Thursday afternoon with air horns and bottles of red wine and whose members were among those taking part in the afternoon sail. It is now on its way to the organisation’s headquarters in Toulouse.
Earlier in the day Cathérine Léonidas who has cabinet responsibility for sports and nautical activities in La Rochelle, visited Oceans of Hope to officially welcome the crew to La Rochelle, while journalists interviewed crew about their adventures.
Today it’s back to the business of getting Oceans of Hope ready for the next stage of the journey, to Lisbon in Portugal, which will begin on Monday. Laundry’s been carted off to be washed, food shopping’s being done, provisions stored, winches serviced and a hundred other jobs that sailing a 20-metre yacht entails.