Disabled tall ship crew begin around the world voyage

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Crowds gathered to wave off a tall ship as it set sail to become the first vessel of its kind to voyage around the world with a crew of disabled sailors.

The Jubilee Sailing Trust's (JST) ship Lord Nelson left from Southampton, Hampshire, for its 23-month 50,000 mile journey.

About 150 people waving Union flags lined the dock to bid farewell to the ship and a small flotilla of yachts accompanied it as it sailed out of Southampton Water.

The 55-metre ship, which is the first tall ship to have been built to enable physically-disabled and able-bodied people to sail side-by-side, will visit more than 30 countries on all seven continents and cross the equator four times during the trip.

One of those taking part is 69-year-old Beryl Jones, a retired disability adviser from Anglesey, Wales, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.

She said: "My grandfather was a sea captain who sailed the world and I guess at this late stage in my life I am following in his footsteps.

"This sail will provide adventure, involving almost every activity on board.

"Scrubbing the deck and potatoes, washing dishes, setting the sails, keeping watch and peering from the crow's nest - a thrill of a lifetime. I am looking forward to the whole experience."

Peter Hanning, a retired parish constable from Jersey, also suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been a keen sailor for years.

He said: "It's a hugely ambitious project. It enables me to continue my love of sailing and the community spirit amongst the crew will be second to none."

Alan Henderson, who lost his right leg while serving as a Royal Marine in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in 2010, has joined the crew.

He said: "I just thought I had to get involved with this charity. "This will give me the chance to see parts of the world I wouldn't otherwise see. It's an important part of my rehabilitation and a major goal which will hopefully see me on my way to recovery."

The ship's captain Barbara Campbell said: "On our ship, as in life in general, some people are more suited to some roles - we take that into account to make sure everyone is involved with the voyage."

Alex Lochrane, JST chief executive, said: "This is no pleasure cruise - our crew will be working together to guide Lord Nelson across the Atlantic and then around the world.

"We are delighted to be able to give both disabled and able-bodied people the opportunity to take on massive challenges and push their boundaries."

Supporting the voyage are broadcaster Peter Snow, world explorer Sarah Outen and expedition leader Skip Novak who will pilot the Lord Nelson when it sails to the Antarctic in 2014.

Mr Snow, who is vice patron of JST, said: "What a wonderful and unique charity the Jubilee Sailing Trust is.

"It's truly remarkable - they offer these people the trip of a lifetime and they offer opportunities to do things which people might previously thought impossible."

The Lord Nelson, named after Britain's most famous disabled sailor, is beginning its journey today, Trafalgar Day, on the first leg to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Special features on board the ship include wheelchair lifts between deck levels, a talking compass and a professional crew trained in the techniques of enabling people of all physical and sensory abilities to join in such activities as setting sails, navigating, steering the ship and keeping night watches.

Other stopovers during the journey will include Cape Town, Kochi, Singapore, Sydney (where the ship will take part in the centenary celebrations of the Royal Australian Navy), Auckland and Ushuaia.

The ship will also visit Antarctica and travel around Cape Horn.