Ingrid Robertson was never much into sailing when she was younger, it was her father’s passion, and like a lot of us we either follow in our parents’ footsteps or we find our own path. But, when Oceans of Hope arrived in NZ, Ingrid got to experience first-hand why this was such a passion, as well as it opening her world to new adventures, experiences and life-long friends.
In 2015 Ingrid found she was at a stage in her life where she was living day to day. Knowing this wasn’t what she wanted out of life, she jumped at the chance to have a taster sail on Oceans of Hope – Sailing Sclerosis which was stopping in New Zealand as part of its world circumnavigation. “I read about the opportunity in the MS newsletter and thought this sounds exciting, so I applied straight away,” Ingrid remembered.
“When I applied to go on Oceans of Hope I didn’t honestly think I would get on as I knew there would be lots wanting to experience this, so when I got accepted I was so excited. I don’t have any sailing experience except my Dad had a Sunburst yacht when we were little so not really sure if that counts. I have been on friends’ boats but haven’t had to do any work!”
For Ingrid, and the other 84 people with MS who got to be a part of the experience, it was an exciting, happy and enlightening opportunity where new friends were made, experiences shared with loved ones, old passions were revived, and new personal goals were set.
“We all had the opportunity to steer and you could help put the sails up and down if you wanted to,” reminisced Ingrid. Talking with the Oceans of Hope crew she was inspired to join them on one of their future Challenges. “I was asking one of the crew how you would qualify as my balance wasn’t 100% and he said – when we are on the boat we are all the same as everyone needs to hang onto things – and that was so true. They had a gentleman on one of the legs, for two weeks he didn’t have to use his stick and felt great.”
Inspired by these incredible stories of hope and achievements Ingrid applied and was accepted onto an Oceans of Hope Challenge in Croatia. “It was an amazing experience, I met so many great, positive people. For seven days you felt normal. I knew we needed to have this on our side of the world.”
With this new lease of life and renewed enthusiasm Ingrid suggested to Oceans of Hope Challenge Managing Director, Robert Munns, to have a New Zealand event. His response was “If you organise it – Yes”. So, she did.
In November 2018, Ingrid and 39 other people with MS crewed Spirit of New Zealand in the inaugural Oceans of Hope Challenge New Zealand. A huge logistical task for volunteer Ingrid, she put countless hours into organising the event in the year lead up. Ingrid knew likeminded individuals would be as passionate as she was, but she was still blown away with the responses. “It was amazing, reading the applications showed how much this would mean to people, with the struggles they had gone through and were going through.”
“When I walked up the ramp to let our 40 courageous people from NZ, Australia, UK, and Denmark onto the ship there were looks of trepidation, nervousness and excitement. Over the next 5 days people were climbing the rigging, jumping into the water, sharing stories, and helping each other. By the time they walked off the boat there were smiles, laughter, and lifelong friendships made.”
For Ingrid, being part of the challenge makes her feel amazing. To be able to share stories, challenge herself and be a part of a team who really understand her and what she is going through.
Not only is it her own personal achievements which drive her to continue to bring Oceans of Hope Challenge to New Zealand but also the change that she sees in her fellow crew members. “To see by the end of the trip people walking even small distances without their walking sticks, which they wouldn’t usually do, or pushing themselves to do master tasks they were initially hesitant about or struggled to do is amazing to be a part of. We are all there to cheer each other on.”
Some personal achievements for Ingrid during her Challenges have been jumping off the boat. “I was so nervous, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I never want to leave with any regrets. Jumping off the boat into the Adriatic Ocean in Croatia and climbing the rigging on Spirit of NZ are memories I will always be proud of.”
At the end of the 2018 Challenge her fellow crew were asking her “when is the next one?” And so here we are in preparation with NZ Sailing Trust for the 2019 Oceans of Hope Challenge this December on Steinlager 2 and Lion NZ. “Applications are filling fast. We already have one boat filled and a lot of interest still coming in.”
Being part of the crew means mucking in and helping to sail, cook, clean. “We are all really mindful of everyone’s abilities. Making sure we rest and then step up when needed is all part of the team mentality.”
For most people there will be some training required. “Personally, I’m aiming over the next 6 months to get fitter. I attend the gym at my local MS Society and am enjoying practicing on the grinder machine to improve my arm strength and endurance. I use a walker to get around most days but am determined to be able to walk 500m unaided. I nearly achieved this the other day and it was a great feeling. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, good days and bad days, but if you join us on the Challenge you’ll be surrounded by people who understand you and are there to support.”
When asked what advice Ingrid would give to other people looking to participate in the 2019 Challenge it was “Believe in yourself. If anyone is concerned about whether the Challenge is right for them they are welcome to contact me on email@example.com and I can give them more information about what an amazing experience this is to be a part of.”
Ingrid isn’t planning on stopping here. Her long-term dream is to continue to bring this great adventure to people with MS in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere. “To be able to meet people who understand what you are going through on a daily basis and have the same determination to challenge yourself is amazing. I’ve made memories and friends that I will treasure forever and can’t wait to make more.”
The world-renowned boats, Steinlager II and Lion New Zealand will be taking to the water for the Oceans of Hope Challenge NZ on the 2nd – 6th December 2019 around the Hauraki Gulf, departing and returning to Auckland. For more information, costs and to receive an application form contact Ingrid on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to welcoming you aboard!