Australians with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are taking part in a world-first voyage that arrives in Sydney for World MS Day on 27th May.
Oceans of Hope, the 67-foot yacht undertaking the first global circumnavigation with a working crew of people living with MS, aims to change perceptions of MS by showing what is possible when people with a chronic disease are empowered to conquer their individual challenges.
There are over 23,000 people living with MS in Australia, a debilitating neurological disease of the central nervous system that interferes with nerve impulses within the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. People with MS are typically diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 years although onset of symptoms may be earlier.
Australians Andrew Potter and Greg Pugh are two of the crew members with MS who joined Oceans of Hope before reaching Sydney. They will remain on the yacht as Oceans of Hope sails up the east coast all the way to Darwin.
“It’s a privilege to join Oceans of Hope to help inspire others with MS and raise awareness of this devastating neurological condition. People with MS can still do great things and this world-first sail is testament to the progress that has been made in treating and managing MS,” said Mr Potter.
Greg Pugh thought his dreams of ever sailing again were shattered when he was diagnosed with MS in 2008. For an experienced sailor who had spent almost 40 years on the water, it was a huge blow.
“Nobody wanted me on their boat because I couldn’t do my share of the work or even carry the boat in and out of the water. My poor balance stops me from being able to swing on a trapeze wire that’s used to help weigh the boat down. Sailing with Oceans of Hope is an absolute dream come true and a fantastic experience,” said Mr Pugh.
Oceans of Hope, sponsored by Biogen, is the flagship vessel of the Sailing Sclerosis Foundation and is making a 33,000 nautical mile voyage. The Sailing Sclerosis Foundation was founded by Danish doctor and psychotherapist, Mikkel Anthonisen, who has also captained the yacht part-time during the voyage.
“It’s a great moment to be in Sydney for World MS Day and to have reached the half-way-point around the world on our circumnavigation. Oceans of Hope is about giving hope and providing possibilities to people living with MS. We want to create equal access to empowerment and to change the perception of what it is like to live with a chronic disabling disease. The MS crew can be very proud of their achievement,” said Dr Anthonisen.
Oceans of Hope’s voyage began in Copenhagen, Denmark, in June 2014. The yacht has since made stopovers in numerous port cities in Europe, crossed the North Atlantic and will next be headed up the east coast of Australia to Newcastle, Brisbane, Cairns and Darwin before heading to Singapore.
CEO of MS Australia, Debra Cerasa, said she was delighted that the arrival of Oceans of Hope coincided with World MS Day.
“We are especially delighted to have Andrew Potter on board Oceans of Hope as he is not only a wonderful person who has lived with MS for 25 years, and a keen sailor, but he also works as MS Australia’s National Advocacy Program Co-ordinator. The coinciding of World MS Day in 2015 and the arrival of Oceans of Hope into Sydney, with a crew that includes Aussies with MS and our very own Andrew Potter, has us all feeling very proud and excited. I hope there are many in the MS community and indeed the whole Sydney community who can join us for this special occasion,” said Ms Cerasa.
Managing Director of Biogen in Australia and New Zealand, Joerg Hermans, said the company was delighted to be sponsoring such a groundbreaking project in MS.
“Biogen is all about caring deeply and helping people with MS to change their lives. The Oceans of Hope project is certainly a global embodiment of those principles for us,” said Mr Hermans.
Oceans of Hope will be in Sydney until 31st May and is expected to complete its round-the-world journey in Barcelona during October of 2015 where the yacht and crew will attend the MS2015 ECTRIMS global conference.
The arrival of the yacht in Australia also coincides with the launch of the MS is My Storycampaign - which is the second phase of last year's hugely successful Seeing MS campaign. MS is My Story focuses on the heart felt stories of people living with multiple sclerosis and how donations and fundraising enable them to access vital services from the MS organisation which helps them livewith MS rather than merely cope with it. Services such as a community nurse visiting them, specialised gym visits and physiotherapy to name a few.
To find out more about MS is My Story visit: www.ms.org.au