A team of military veterans have set sail on an ambitious sailing trip from Land’s End to John O’ Groats - and one of them is from East Lancashire.   

The 25-strong crew is made up of Armed Forces veterans who have been affected by their military service or struggling with isolation during the pandemic.

Most participants have little or no sailing experience and will be taught by professional instructors during the 1000-mile voyage.

The expedition has been organised by Turn to Starboard – a Falmouth-based charity that uses sail training to help veterans with physical and mental injuries. The aim is for participants to experience the known therapeutic effects of sailing and the sea, boost self-esteem, develop lifelong skills, and connect with others facing similar challenges as their own.

A fleet of four yachts took to the water on Sunday, September 12 at Falmouth in Cornwall. The amateur crew will now travel up the west coast of Britain for the next three weeks with stopovers at ports along the route.

All crew members have all gone through four days of training and familiarisation sessions at Falmouth where they learnt the basics of sailing to help man the yachts. 

The team will need to work together during the gruelling passage, with rough seas and strong winds expected at times. Participants will learn to live in close quarters and learn all of aspects of sailing, from setting the sails and taking the helm, to navigation and weather observations.

One participant is Lee Rudi Wood, from Colne, who was medically discharged from the Army with a leg injury.

Lancashire Telegraph: Lee WoodLee Wood

He was a member of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery until 1966 when he left. Lee said he still misses the camaraderie of the army which is why he decided to embark on this expedition.

The 53-year-old said: “Being tucked away for so long during the pandemic really took its toll on my mental health so I thought this would be a great way to focus on something new and build my confidence back up.

“I really miss the camaraderie and looking forward meet others in a similar situation to my own.”

However, the expedition so far hasn’t been easy and Lee said it has taken him out of his comfort zone.

He explained: “My love of sailing has encouraged me to do it… but it’s hard to live with so many other people on the boat.

“The trip so far has been hard and sometimes quite scary. We’ve been in weather with high force winds and the sea has been absolutely rough.

Lancashire Telegraph: Lee sailing at night Lee sailing at night

“We’re doing shifts, sailing at night, travelling in shipping lanes and all while the wind is absolutely driving at you.”

“It’s totally out of your comfort zone but for me it’s given me more sailing experience… it’s been absolutely fantastic.”

The fleet is expected to cross the finish line at John O'Groats in early October. Here they will swap places with a new team of veterans who will depart for the return voyage.

Each yacht is fitted with a GPS location device so the shore support team, family members and supporters can track their progress via an online tracker.

To learn more about the expedition, or to make a donation, visit turntostarboard.co.uk or call 01326 314262.

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