The Jubilee Sailing Trust’s 55-metre tall ship Lord Nelson set sail from VivoCity, Singapore at 0945 local time on Wednesday (29 May 2013) on a six-day voyage as part of the Norton Rose Sail the World Challenge. She will return to Singapore on Monday 3 June before departing a week later on 10 June bound for Fremantle, Australia on the latest leg of her 50,000-mile circumnavigation.
Lord Nelson, was designed to enable physically disabled people, including wheelchair users, to sail alongside their non-disabled peers as equals. The bespoke features on board include hearing loops, wheelchair lifts, integrated Braille instructions and speaking compasses.
Captain Chris Phillips said that he expects light winds en route to Tioman Island off the east coast of Malaysia, where he hopes to arrive on 31 May. “This part of the world is sitting almost right on the Equator so there is generally not a lot of wind and that is what the forecast indicates for the next week.”
“We will get under sail once clear of the traffic spilling in and out of the Singapore Straits, and we’ll have a slow sail towards Tioman,” he added.
There has been a high level of interest in Lord Nelson’s visit to Singapore, with around 2,000 people visiting the ship over the weekend during public open days. A total of 12 Singaporeans set sail as part of the voyage crew this morning, some of whom responded to media reports last week following Lord Nelson’s arrival from Kochi, India.
Gene Wan, 36, is a semi-conductor testing engineer and the mother of three children under the age of five. On Saturday she read a report in the Straits Times about the opportunity to sail on Lord Nelson, and headed straight down to the ship to find out more. By the following day she had completed the registration process and was ready to get on board for today’s voyage. “I knew I wanted to do it straight away. I just had to convince my husband to look after the children,” she said.
Before setting sail Gene climbed one of Lord Nelson’s masts during training alongside at VivoCity. “It was really exciting and the view is fantastic from up there. I didn’t realise how high it was until I got up there,” she said.
One of the challenges for Gene is leaving her young children. “It is a struggle to leave them behind but I travel quite a bit for work and this is a fantastic opportunity.”
Another voyage crew member setting sail this morning was 16-year-old Solveig Steeman, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. Yesterday her mum Fedra Kruger, 46, dropped her off at the ship to start her pre-voyage training.
“It was such a coincidence what happened. We never watch television but we turned it on last Thursday night and saw the Channel News Asia report [about the Norton Rose Sail the World Challenge]. We asked Solveig if she wanted to take part and she said ‘yes’ right away.”
“She will get dignity by taking part. People stare at us in the shopping centre but it is very different on Lord Nelson.”
Fedra said that when she and her husband adopted Solveig when she was ten months old, the doctors told them that she was so severely disabled that she would never be able to do anything. “When she was one and a half years old they told us we should take her back to the home but we refused and we kept on fighting them,” she said.
“I’m so proud of her. She wants to show the world that she can do something and that’s exactly what she will do on Lord Nelson,” Fedra said.
“I always say the best thing you can give a person is good memories and a chance and that is what Lord Nelson gives people,” she added.
Captain Phillips said the strong Singaporean contingent on board is down to Lord Nelson providing a rare opportunity in Singapore and Asia in general. “It is unusual in this part of the world to have a tall ship that anyone can apply to sail on without prior experience, and in particular, one like Lord Nelson that is disability-friendly.”
Berths are still available to sail as part of the voyage crew on Lord Nelson from Singapore to Fremantle, Australia departing on 10 June. For more information visit www.jst.org.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0) 23 8042 6849..
Also on board today was three-time Paralympic sailor Jovin Tan, 27, one of four Singaporeans sponsored to take part in Lord Nelson’s voyage by international legal practice Norton Rose. With cerebral palsy, Jovin was physically the weakest among his peers but with the support of the Singapore Disability Sports Council’s sailing programme, Jovin overcame his phobia of the sea to go on to represent his nation in the Paralympic games at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 where he finished seventh with Desiree Lim in the two-person Skud 18 class.
“I climbed one of Lord Nelson’s masts yesterday and that was awesome. I’m really looking forward to life on board. The main thing will be interacting with the other crew. It’s going to be a two-way thing between the disabled and able bodied crew and l think we will all learn a lot from each other,” Jovin said.
Singaporean Jim Bek is also sailing on Lord Nelson. Sponsored to participate by London Offshore Consultants Pte Ltd, 49-year-old Jim is blind and works as a clinical counsellor for the Ministry of Education at Greendale Secondary in Singapore. He is also the president of the Singapore Association for Counselling.
“What attracts me is the idea of being on board not as a passenger, but as an integrated crew member. My late dad was a master mariner and tug master in Abu Dhabi, and I have always had a strong connection with the sea. I think he would be very proud and envious if he knew what I was about to do. I really see this as the opportunity of a lifetime,” he added. “Where my late father ended his journey at sea when he retired aged 49, mine has just begun.”
Juhae Chae, 29, who works as an associate for Norton Rose in Singapore, is no stranger to life at sea having spent the first five years of her life on board the humanitarian aid ship MV Doulos. “I spent the first years of my life on a unique ship and this is also a unique ship so I am very lucky. I’m very excited I never thought I’d have this opportunity,” Juhae said, adding that she had already climbed one of Lord Nelson’s masts.
Juhae, who was born in Korea, said she was pleased that they were heading for Tioman in Malaysia. “It’s been on my bucket list to go there and it’s really satisfying to be sailing there instead of going on a plane.” On the six-day voyage, Juhae will be buddied with British wheelchair user, Anna Pettman.
“It’s great that lots of people have responded to media reports and got on board. All my friends are stoked for me, and my family are all jealous as they are all water babies,” said Juhae, whose participation has been sponsored by her employer, Norton Rose.
Also sailing today was 28-year-old Ong Shi Yi who is bilaterally hearing impaired and works as a workplace diversity management executive for the Singapore Employers National Federation (SNEF). “To say I’m excited to be getting on board would be quite an understatement,” she said. Sailing as a crew member on Lord Nelson is the latest of many adventures for Shi Yi who has tried sky-diving, bungee-jumping and white water rafting. She has been sponsored to take part in Lord Nelson’s upcoming voyage by London Offshore Consultants Pte Ltd. despite having no previous sailing experience.
“This will definitely widen my horizons and I hope it will also motivate and encourage other disabled people to step out of their sheltered lives and have an adventure of a lifetime,” Shi Yi said.
During the Norton Rose Sail the World Challenge, Lord Nelson’s inaugural 23-month circumnavigation, the ship will log four Equator crossings and visit 30 countries on seven continents. More than 1,000 people will have the opportunity to participate during this 50,000-mile voyage.
Image below of Singaporeanvoyage crew members who set sail on board the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s LordNelson on the Norton Rose Sail the World Challenge on Wednesday (Credit:maxphotographer.com)