James Whale, winner of two silver medals in the Cerebral Palsy World Games, has ditched his goggles for a life on the ocean waves. He now prefers being on the water rather than in it and is studying for a day skipper certificate after a voyage with JST got him interested in sailing.
When James unwrapped his 21st birthday present, he was astonished. His mum had surfed the internet and come across something that she thought would be just right for James – a voyage on a tall ship. She had booked it and wrapped up the paperwork as a surprise present and James had had no idea even that such an opportunity was possible for him.
James had already had a very active life. He was an accomplished international swimmer who had won two silver medals in the Cerebral Palsy World Games. Yet he was also beginning to feel that it was taking over his life and not leaving time for anything else. However he did love being involved in the swimming. As a very sociable person he was often the centre of attention, and had won Stoke-on-Trent Sports personality of the year in 2006. Swimming gave him a network of friends which meant that moving on was not going to be easy.
When he arrived on board the Jubilee Sailing Trust ship, it was the first time he had ever been away on his own without his parents or other people known to him. It was the first time he had had to bond with a group of strangers without the support of anyone else. He was scared initially but by the end of the voyage he knew he had found something that would fill the gap that swimming had left. He loved the challenge of it, setting the sails, being on watch, pulling on ropes. The first time he went up the mast he was hoisted up in a wheelchair, the second time he climbed himself with assistance from JST Permanent Crew. He loved being barman too on board but with his unsteady hands his shipmates had to leave their beer cans to settle before opening them! His mum too has benefitted from the experience. She likes meeting other parents when she brings James to the ship – it makes her realise that she is not alone in coping with the disabilities of her child.
He quickly signed up for another voyage - this time a ten day passage. He got tired and struggled on watch but it did not put him off. Instead he went home and started a programme at the gym to build up his his strength and stamina. JST had at first been for fun but now he is starting to take his sailing very seriously. He has signed up to study an RYA Day Skipper theory and hopes to do the practical exam one day. He has recently returned from sailing Tenacious from Southampton to Gran Canaria.
James is also a real giver. He does sponsored bag packs for charity. He is a great football supporter and owns his own executive box at Stoke City Football Club. He recently donated the advertising space outside the box to the JST.
James was trained for swimming by Cerebral Palsy Sport www.cpsport.org