A remarkable teenager from Peatmoor, who is looking forward to her fifth year in remission from leukaemia, is hoping to join famed sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur as a volunteer helper.
In May Rachel Blackford took part in her fourth trip with the Ellen MacArthur Trust which uses sailing to boost the confidence of young people who have had cancer or leukaemia.
Rachel was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2005 and missed almost 12 months of school during her treatment. She said, “Being out of school for so long, I lost a lot of confidence and sailing really helped bring it back. It’s been absolutely brilliant every year; as soon as I get back, I talk about it non-stop to friends and family.”
Rachel set sail from Cowes with four other young people and volunteers from the Trust. On their 48 foot yacht, Scarlet Oyster, they sailed the first leg of the four month round Britain trip, from Cowes to Dover. They were given a fantastic send off with over 30 boats following and cannons fired to mark the start of the voyage.
“This was the best trip so far,” she said. “It was the longest I’ve been on; a whole week. It was good to build up my experience of sailing and getting to know the others.”
Dame Ellen visited for photos and interviews before joining the youngsters for a day. “She was interested to know about us and what was going on in our lives.”
Rachel, who gained 12 A* GCSEs at Bradon Forest, despite her illness, has just taken her A Levels. She hopes to set a course for Oxford University in September to read philosophy, politics and economics.
Bitten by the sailing bug, she also plans to take her day skipper qualification so that she can become a volunteer for the Ellen MacArthur Trust next year.