24th October 2015
They say life is like sailing as you can use the wind to go in any direction, and it’s a saying veteran Roy Newport found to be true when he discovered the Turn to Starboard charity.
Roy, 42, suffered a spinal compression injury after his vehicle went over a landmine in 2010. In addition to living with the physical effects of the incident, he suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he found impacted on his recovery process and the lives of his wife and two young children.
After being medically discharged in 2014 and serving at Hasler Company, the Royal Navy’s rehabilitation unit, Roy was introduced to Turn to Starboard, a sailing charity based in Falmouth. The charity is founded from the belief that sailing has a therapeutic and calming effect on participants. He received funding from Help for Heroes and the Poppy Factory.
Roy said,“At first, I couldn’t even talk to anyone, I really struggled. I didn’t know what was wrong with me; I’d have long panic attacks and no control over my own body. Once I discovered Turn to Starboard, I found that sailing had a therapeutic effect and there’s no time to sit and ponder. Everything is completely different when you are at sea to when you’re on land.”
Turn to Starboard uses the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) sailing courses to support serving, retired personnel and their families and last year helped 139 former Armed Forces personnel get out on to the water. The organisation additionally offers training courses for veterans to gain internationally recognised qualifications from the RYA, which can potentially help veterans start new careers anywhere in the world.
People like Roy and their families are assisted on accompanied sailing trips lasting from a few hours to a few days. Sailing from Falmouth, destinations include France, the Isles of Scilly and excursions along the Cornish coast. Sailing is known to provide elements that mirror the ethos of Armed Forces life, such as team cohesion and leadership skills. This can help participants gradually adjust to civilian life while gaining comfort from those in a similar situation.
Roy added, “I’m at a point now where I can control how I feel and have a normal conversation but it took a long time to get there. I’m now working towards gaining Yachtmaster qualifications and I’m currently acting as a volunteer co-ordinator and mentor. A lot of the guys on the scheme have PTSD and it is encouraging for them to see how far I’ve come.”
Turn to Starboard was created from the personal experiences of its founder; Squadron Leader (Retired) Shaun Pascoe in 2012. Shaun served on numerous tours during his sixteen years in the RAF, including Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and repeatedly to Afghanistan as Officer Commanding (OC) of the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT).
MERT is the medical team that flies ahead using the Chinook aircraft to retrieve those significantly injured, often under heavy enemy fire. The high-intensity nature of his operational work meant the transition on coming home became an increasing challenge.
Shaun decided to spend his resettlement time and money on an RYA Yachtmaster Offshore course and within two weeks of sailing he felt in a better place.
Shaun said,“Learning new skills, achieving qualifications, forging new friendships and experiencing adventure is what we offer and it is incredibly powerful in aiding recovery. We’ve had veterans complete our courses saying they found an increased sense of purpose and pride which ultimately boosts their self-esteem. People sail with us to benefit from a shared experience, helping them re-engage after leaving the Service.
“We also help individuals who are completing operational tours or those requiring resettlement assistance through a Zero to Hero training programme designed to build confidence and self-esteem through learning new skills. This is a sixteen-week programme with flexible, expert tuition meeting the individual needs of participants who are guided through nineteen RYA courses, culminating in an RYA Yachtmaster and commercially endorsed Cruising Instructor qualification.”
The charity has recently launched a campaign to find a Cornwall based veteran for a scholarship award, worth more than £8000.
Web: www.turntostarboard.co.uk tel: 01326 314262
Published in Veterans World magazine. October 2015.