As unique British tall ship, Lord Nelson, makes a splash on her inaugural visit to New Zealand, two Kiwis are getting ready to set sail on the experience of a lifetime.

An anonymous New Zealand benefactor has paid for 16-year-old blind student Jesse Mellish from Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty to sail on the first of the four in-country voyages on board the ship owned and operated by UK charity, the Jubilee Sailing Trust, and ‘excited’ doesn’t come close to describing how the teenager is feeling about her up-coming adventure.

“I’m ecstatic, I am just about valve bouncing, I’m over the moon,” said the Te Puke High School Year 12 student, although she admits her family are more nervous for her.

Jesse has been blind since birth but her visual impairment hasn’t curbed her sense of adventure.

“I’ve sailed on a yacht through the Blind Foundation and I’ve rock climbed and abseiled,” she explains.

“I’m looking forward to experiencing being on board overnight, working as a team and making new friends,” she adds, and admits the biggest challenges will be “climbing the mast and meeting new people.”

Disabled crew are buddied up with able bodied crew members and provide mutual support during a voyage. The ethos of the ship is to focus on what people are capable of, rather than what they are not.

Also hoping to join Lord Nelson’s crew when she sets sail for her final nine-day voyage in New Zealand on 28 November is Lawry Bassett from Unsworth Heights, Albany.

Five years ago the 65-year-old father of two was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease which has restricted the use of his limbs but he is still able to walk with the assistance of a walking frame.

“I have been an active sports person all my life, highly competitive in 33 years of rugby, tennis and marathon running to name a few,” explains Lawry, who is a semi-retired freight and logistics specialist.

He continues, “Having also had to discard my golf clubs and surf board I re-united with another of my earlier hobbies, sailing. I joined Sailability Auckland which enables sailors with disabilities to participate in sailing at all levels from recreational to the Paralympics and everything in between. My competitive streak came out as I learned to master the single person Hansa Liberty class. Sailing gives me so much freedom and allows me to continue my passion for sport, despite my disability.”

Lawry and Sailability Auckland are raising money to fund his berth fee and hope to be able to raise enough to enable several others to make the most of Lord Nelson’s first ever visit to New Zealand, part of the 50,000-mile Norton Rose Fulbright Sail the World Challenge. For more information visit:

This won’t be the first time Lawry has sailed on a tall ship. In Whangarei in the early 70s he worked on a replica of HMS Bounty for the film, Mutiny on the Bounty, adapting period features to hide modern technology such as diesel exhausts.

Spaces are still available for disabled and able bodied Kiwis to get on board Lord Nelson during her inaugural visit to New Zealand with prices starting at NZ$1,267 for ten days. A range of physical disabilities can be accommodated and no previous sailing experience is required. To book a voyage call Paul Kennerley on 09 522 4515, visit or email

Lord Nelson is currently embarked on her maiden circumnavigation in the Norton Rose Fulbright Sail the World Challenge, a ground breaking 50,000-mile voyage organised by UK charity, the Jubilee Sailing Trust. It is the first time an accessible tall ship has sailed around the world.