Spanish people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are taking part in a world-first voyage that arrives in Barcelona on 5th October.
Oceans of Hope, the 20 metre yacht undertaking the first global circumnavigation with a working crew of people living with MS, aims to change the perceptions of MS by showing what is possible when people with a chronic disease are empowered to conquer their individual challenges.
At least 700,000 people in Europe have MS and there are over 47,000 people living with MS in Spain, 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 the onset of symptoms may be earlier.
Jesús Calderón, 45, and Silvia Rueda Gúzman, 28, are two Spanish crewmembers with MS who joined Oceans of Hope before reaching Barcelona.
“Taking part in the Oceans of Hope project as a crewmember has allowed me to meet and get involved with people in a similar situation to my own. We have demonstrated to ourselves that we can get through this kind of experience despite having MS, enjoying sailing to the fullest and facing challenges together in this wonderful community. It has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life and it is helping me do my bit in spreading awareness of MS, so that someday we might succeed in finding a definitive cure,” said Mr Calderón.
Oceans of Hope, sponsored by the biotech company, Biogen, is the flagship vessel of the Sailing Sclerosis Foundation and has made a 28,000 nautical mile voyage. The Sailing Sclerosis Foundation was founded by Danish doctor and psychotherapist, Mikkel Anthonisen, who has also skippered the yacht during sections of the voyage.
“We are now close to completing our round-the-world journey and it has been an incredible experience where the yacht and crew have been met with open arms by the sailing world, the MS world and the public in general. Our inspirational MS crews have made an emphatic contribution to changing the perceptions of what it means to live with a chronic disease. Many people’s lives have been changed for the better as their hopes and dreams have been restored in a meaningful community and either begin sailing again or take up sailing. We have sown important seeds of hope around the world, seeds that are now growing, ” said Mikkel Anthonisen.
Oceans of Hope will be berthed at Marina Port Vell from October 5th to 12th. More than half of the 100 crew living with MS who have taken part in the global voyage have flown to Barcelona to celebrate her return to the Iberian Peninsula. Several of them have chartered local yachts, which will form a flotilla to greet Oceans of Hope in style when she arrives. The yacht and her crew will also attend the world’s largest global sclerosis conference ECTRIMS 2015, hosted in Barcelona, from October 8th – 10th.
During the voyage local MS crews have embarked aboard Oceans of Hope in thirty ports around the world for experiential harbour trips, providing more than five hundred people with the chance to sail aboard the vessel. More than one hundred MS crewmembers from over ten different countries have participated in the oceanic legs of the voyage, experiencing nature in the raw, dancing dolphins and breath-taking sunsets. They have sailed through the calms of the tropics, but have also faced rough storms whilst crossing the Atlantic Ocean and the Tasman Sea.
Aboard Oceans of Hope everyone participates as an active crewmember, involved in navigating the yacht, trimming the sails and cooking meals. According to Mikkel Anthonisen life on the boat creates the framework for a community in which people can empower themselves and reconnect with their inner resources and potential. People recapture their identity when they overcome their individual challenges while working together for a common goal.
Silvia Rueda Gúzman explains: "Given that MS is the disease with a thousand faces, it is an incredibly rewarding opportunity to be aboard Oceans of Hope where we can deal with the daily realities of the disease in a community of others who also live with MS and can understand better than anyone. Here I do not feel alone or different because of MS, a disease which makes the future so uncertain, and that helps me find the inner strength to keep fighting and remembering that sinking is not an option.”
Oceans of Hope will be in Barcelona until October 12th and will then sail back to her home port - Copenhagen, Denmark.
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Sailing Sclerosis - Oceans of Hope
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