Oceans of Hope Taster Sails – Blog by Mikkel

OoH Jul 8, 2015, by Mikkel Anthonisen in Events

On the 7th of July we hosted the last Oceans of Hope Taster Sail so far. This time in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

When we set out from Copenhagen on the 15th of June last year it was to change the perception of what it is like to live with a chronic disease like MS and to show that you can still do great things and live out your dreams, even though you have to live with MS. We wanted to create hope and a sense of having a meaningful life with a strong feeling of worthiness and belonging. One of our core means to pursue that objective was, and is, to make friends and create networks between the sailing world and those living with MS all around the world. We have hosted Oceans of Hope Taster Sails in Denmark, Germany, Holland, England, France, Portugal, Massachusetts, New York, Florida, New Zealand and in four states in Australia. Hundreds of people living with MS have been out for a day on the Oceans of Hope vessel or on one of the local sailing club’s boats as part of the event.

When I established Sailing Sclerosis in the summer of 2013, we did exactly the same. We created the network between yacht clubs in Denmark and people with MS. The boats were there, the good intention was there and the people with MS were there too. Quite simple, really. Bringing the good intention into action just took a little organization, that´s all. Now these activities thrive and grow slowly but surely back in Denmark in sailing clubs, which are spread all over the country - and are starting to do the same in the places we have visited around the world. The number of people sailing with Sailing Sclerosis is expanding every year.

One of my favourite stories from 2013 is about a man in his 50s, who came down to one of our first activities south of Copenhagen. He arrived in his electrical wheel chair. In his youth he was an avid sailor, but when contracted with MS in his mid 20s he stopped sailing. Now he was lifted down into one of the boats with a special lift and spent an afternoon out sailing. I will never forget the smile on his face when he came back in. The rest of that season he came out sailing regularly!

This is what we want to tell the world: It’s never too late to live your life. You might even be part of an epic circumnavigation as the proud MS crew on board Oceans of Hope. And even more importantly, sailing is something for everybody - if you live by the sea or a lake. It is a brilliant way of being together with other people. Out in the elements, in nature.

There is something healing about water, about being at or on the sea. I believe we all intuitively know that. That is probably also why the Minister of Health and Disability from Northern Territory, Australia, John Elferink, paid us a visit at our Taster Sail in Darwin. He and I talked about the importance of establishing communities and activities where people can empower themselves - and create meaning and hope on a daily basis.

In the future we hope that we can continue to sail around the world, spreading our life-affirming message and values. At the same time we want to build up sailing centres focusing on all aspects of health: Empowerment, rehabilitation, education and treatment. We believe that many of the activities related to being ill should be located outside the hospitals and health care units and integrated in the everyday life of everybody in society. A sailing centre would be a lighthouse for this way of thinking. It will be a laboratory and a playground for a new way of thinking, where health, quality of life and keeping people integrated in society and the community comes naturally and where people are always looked upon as resources and not burdens.

As one of the participants said at the Taster Sail in Darwin: "I would never had thought a thing like this could happen" - referring to Oceans of Hope sailing around the world with a crew of people with MS. Of course it can! And it can happen again. If we focus our resources on it and work together, we can do much more than we could ever imagine.

We rely greatly on the enthusiasm and help of regional and national MS advocacy groups to fill the boat with guests wherever we visit and in particular we would like to thank Amanda Keefe at MS New Zealand; Therese Russel at MS Auckland; Debra Cerasa and Andrew Giles at MS Australia and Anna Rojas from Biogen. Most importantly, we wish to thank everyone who came sailing with us – we fully understand the efforts involved in getting to and from the boat, we also know from your faces as you leave that the effort was more than worthwhile! In addition we have received kind and generous support from the numerous yacht clubs and marinas visited during the last 10 weeks. Finally, a very special thanks to Andrew Potter who has been part of the MS crew for nine weeks from Auckland to Darwin. He has been an invaluable ambassador during our stay in New Zealand and Australia and has contributed to our small community with his extraordinary human qualities and helpful manner.
Oceans of Hope will soon head north towards Singapore and yet another continent, but the experiences in Australasia have been profound and truly unforgettable – thank you to everyone, we hope to be back soon!


This article was written by

Mikkel Anthonisen

Founder, doctor and skipper