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Thomas defies epilepsy to climb for the Jubilee Sailing Trust
Thomas Hart and his father plus the help of two others undertook a sponsored rock climb on 19th June to raise funds for JST. They climbed 600ft and raised £812.50. Thomas has both autism and epilepsy and had never climbed more that 100ft before.
Here is Thomas’ story in the words of his father, Adrian:
Thomas loves sailing more than anything yet because he has epilepsy, had never been allowed to sail offshore. This all changed last year; he took part in The Tall Ships Races on JST ship Tenacious. He sailed from Norway to England and loved every minute of it. I myself had always wanted to sail on a tall ship, so when he asked me if I would come along as his buddy, I didn't need more than a split second to make up my mind! Sailing together on Tenacious was simply fantastic.
Arriving in Kristiansund, Norway and walking round the dock was wonderful. Checking out of the hotel then boarding Tenacious was a dream come true. Departing port the next morning with a flotilla of tall ships, we will never forget. Crossing the start line with all sails drawing hard was breathtaking. Life on board was very enjoyable. Meeting other people, helping other people, keeping watch and galley duty; everything except cleaning the heads was brilliant!
We met some great people and still keep in touch with some of the members of our watch. Then there were the visitors when we arrived in Hartlepool. I remember one chap in a wheelchair who had tour of the ship when we alongside. We hauled him and his wheelchair up the gangway and he spent at least half an hour going round. When I helped him back to land he was so grateful and so delighted he had been able to go on board. He was unable to get on board any of the other 15 or so tall ships in the dock. He had his picture taken with a few of the crew, it made his day! For me one of the best aspects of the voyage was helping people who otherwise wouldn't be able to sail on square riggers get out there and join in, adding their own special qualities and abilities to the crew.
This year Thomas decided that he wanted to raise some money in order to help others with disabilities enjoy the JST magic. He chose to do a 600ft rock climb which was far more than he had ever done before. I have been a keen climber for many years. Thomas has climbed with me but only on small climbs. Longer more adventurous climbs were not attempted because of his epilepsy.
We decided a long climb would be quite a challenge for Thomas. If he had a seizure half way up it would be quite difficult and dangerous to get him off (mountain rescue!). I had done this route three times before so knew it well and thought it would be just about right for the challenge. I took two experienced climbing friends, Colwyn and Matt, with us so we would be able to rescue Thomas if this proved necessary.
The climb is called Ardverikie Wall on a small mountain (746m) called Binnein Shuas near Laggan in the Scottish Highlands, about 25 miles from Aviemore. The weather was rather blustery with lots of white fluffy clouds so a bit chilly but dry. The route is 190m high, 6 pitches. I led the route with Thomas coming up behind me on a single rope. Colwyn and Matt climbed up between us on a double rope (twin ropes are easier for helping rescue someone if needed.) The climb took about 3 hours. All went well, Thomas took it all in his stride and was not at all afraid of the height. We scrambled and walked right to the summit of the mountain (the actual climb finishes about 120 meters from the summit). We took some photos on the summit before returning back down to the car.
Thomas was clearly elated when we reached the top of the climb and the top of the mountain. For me the climb and the mountain are something I do regularly; however having Thomas up there with me and achieving our goal was very special. We both had a wonderful sense of achievement, doing something great together. We had been talking about doing this for many months and at last have achieved our goal!
So what’s next? As well as climbing, mainly on indoor climbing walls, Thomas is also a keen golfer. Sailing is probably his strongest passion. We did evening classes last winter and both passed our shorebased RYA Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster theory course. We spent four days sailing in a 42ft yacht on the west coast of Scotland this summer. When we have time we will be back for more sailing with the JST. We both fancy one of the longer passages next time!
One thing is for sure we will be coming along again just as soon as we have the time.
A very big thank you to all at the JST for making our north sea trip possible (Thomas had never been allowed out of sight of land on sailing trips with other organisations because of his epilepsy) and for helping so many people to have a marvelous time sailing a tall ship!