Auckand – Today (2 December) 40 people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) headed out onto the Hauraki Gulf, to prove that MS won’t stop them. Participating in the 2019 Oceans of Hope Challenge NZ, these adventurous people will hoist the rigging, work the grinders and scrub the deck aboard the legendary Whitbread Maxi yachts, Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand.
The five-day challenge encourages people with MS to push themselves beyond their perceived physical and mental limits and builds comradery and resilience. With participants arriving from New Zealand, Australia, Europe and America, this is the second NZ-based event for Oceans of Hope, after a successful voyage on Spirit of NZ last year.
“Facing the challenges the event presents, with people who truly understand what you are going through, gives you the strength and encouragement you need,” says NZ-based Oceans of Hope organiser Ingrid Robertson. “Coming together, meeting like-minded people and realising that we’re not alone is hugely empowering.”
For many diagnosed with MS, the thought of sailing on these iconic yachts seems like an impossible task. “This event is sure to be our toughest to date due to the sheer pedigree of the boats,” commented Oceans of Hope Managing Director, Robert Munns.
Robert also has MS but has witnessed the transformational impacts of the Challenge: “I’ve been privileged to see people walking for the first time in years without their sticks or jumping from their wheelchairs into the water, all because their participation has challenged their own beliefs about their abilities.”
Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand (MSNZ) National Manager, Amanda Rose agrees. “It’s not just the general publics preconceived ideas about MS that we want to change, but also the mindset of those diagnosed,” she comments. “MS is a chronic condition, but it is not a life sentence. People with MS are living well due to advances in knowledge, research, treatments and events like Oceans of Hope make people realise that MS doesn’t stop them. They are more than their MS.”
This year, the Challenge Crew are working in collaboration with MSNZ and the New Zealand Sailing Trust (NZST) to make this opportunity possible.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune condition that damages the nerves, spinal cord and brain. This impacts mobility and speech and can cause pain and other issues such as heat sensitivity and cognitive difficulties. 4,000 New Zealanders have been diagnosed with MS and most experience debilitating fatigue. It is the unseen symptoms that are the hardest to manage for people with MS. This reality often make the condition difficult to explain, which increases issues of misunderstanding, isolation and mental health concerns.