A Carterton teenager who overcame cancer had the experience of a lifetime when he shared the seas with four-time Olympic champion Sir Ben Ainslie at the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race.
Oliver Humphris, 16, had just finished year seven at Carterton Community Coll-ege when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, with treatment at the John Radcliffe Hospital eventually coming to an end in January 2010.
And after battling back from the disease, Humphris took on an altogether more welcome challenge on Saturday as he joined 16,000 competitors across 1,584 boats to contest the 83rd edition of the 50 nautical-mile circuit arou-nd the Isle of Wight.
Five of those boats belon-ged to the Dame Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust – a charity set up to give young people in recovery from cancer the chance to rebuild their confidence through sailing – with Humphris delighted to make his J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race debut.
“This is my first time doing the race and second trip out with the Trust,” said Humphris, who will start at The Henry Box School Sixth Form later this year.
“It’s really good, it gives you opportunities to do new things and meet new people.
“I was really looking forward to the race, it’s something to put on my CV for the future and it was a lot of fun.
“The plan was just to try and not to come last out of the Trust boats.
“I gave my friends and family the number for tracking our progress so they could see how we were doing.
“I got to talk to Ellen who is really nice and so is her dog Norman.”
With wind at a minimum, racing was well off the record pace set by Ainslie in 2013 with finishing line honours this time round going to Pete Cumming aboard GC32 Team Richard Mille in 8.51.37 hours.
And while it was an even longer day out on the water for Humphris, there was still much fun to be had with his crewmates and Dame Ellen MacArthur also joining in on the action.
“This is a really special race, there are thousands of people out on the water, there are thousands of boats out on the water,” said former solo long-distance yachtswoman MacArthur.
“We had five boats out from the Trust with 24 young people going around the island. It was about being out there and having fun and they did a really good job.”
The JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race is one of the largest participation sporting events in the UK and the largest yacht race of its kind in the world. Organised by the Island Sailing Club in Cowes, it is dubbed ‘Britain's favourite yacht race’, regularly attracting around 1,500 boats and 16,000 competitors www.roundtheisland.org.uk