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News 12 July 2017 l Health & wellbeing

Sailing into a new lease of life

A 62-year-old Hanover resident from Penzance in Cornwall has found a new lease of life since learning how to sail with a local sailing school.

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John’s sailing adventures first began a couple of years ago, when the uplifting sea views from his new home on a Hanover estate provided real inspiration to overcome his disabilities and learn to sail. Estate Manager Pauline Robinson, via her links with the charity Age UK, then suggested to John that he should contact the Mylor Sailing School. The school aims to make the sport accessible for people of all ages via its Sailability course.

Within a couple of months of starting the course, John had obtained level one and two qualifications from the Royal Yachting Association. He now takes part in competitive yacht racing as one of a three-man team. The team helps one another to overcome their individual challenges and, with the help of an instructor, they have won their last three races against able-bodied sailors.

Sailing Aside News
This achievement is made all the more impressive when considering past events. Following a near fatal crash with a lorry in Germany over 27 years ago, John sustained 18 bodily fractures, and partial brain damage after being in a coma for seven weeks. The future was looking bleak for the fitness fanatic and, over 30 operations later, doctors thought it unlikely that he would ever be able to walk or drive again. However, as a previously independent new business owner, being confined to a wheelchair and having to rely on his sons to get about was not a fate that John was prepared to accept without a fight.

Showing true indomitable spirit and not a little tenacity, John spent the subsequent years focusing on strengthening his limbs by walking with crutches and weight-training, while also regaining his driving licence in order to drive a mobility car. 

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Tracy Boyne from Mylor said: ‘John has rehabilitated himself with his sailing and has also made strong friendships with other participants. Starting as a beginner he has gone from strength to strength and it became part of his life very quickly.’

As someone who enjoys socialising, John particularly looks forward to a pasty and pint with his team members after the sailing sessions. He is also a member of Cornwall’s Active Plus, an initiative which utilises the experience of injured military veterans to build confidence, motivation and self-belief in its participants. John has recently inspired other Hanover residents to partake in a useful life skills course, where sessions included fire safety, personal safety, first aid training and IT awareness. 

John attributes his positive attitude to his late grandmother, who overcame her own physical adversities at the age of 92 to walk again. He says: ‘You have to just get on with it. My philosophy is to live life without limits. Sailing is a fantastic sport which all started for me thanks to the stunning views overlooking the harbour and St Michael’s Mount from my Hanover property.’ 

Radio interview

You can listen to John talking about his love of sailing in this short Radio Cornwall feature, which starts 2 hours and 41 minutes into the show.