The Oceans of Hope Challenge aims to give those living with multiple sclerosis the chance to sail and enjoy other water sports

Multiple sclerosis sufferer Robert Munns, from Brighton, has created the Oceans of Hope Challenge to give others with the condition the chance to sail.
Robert was inspired by his experience sailing across the Pacific Ocean and English Channel with the Danish organisation Sailing Sclerosis, on ‪board a yacht named ‘Oceans of Hope’.

Sailing Sclerosis undertook the first circumnavigation with a crew of people living with the disease multiple sclerosis (MS) from June 2014 to November 2015 to change the perceptions of MS and to show what is possible even when living with a chronic and disabling disease

With The Oceans of Hope Challenge, Robert has organised a fun packed weekend of sailing and water sports at Bewl Water outdoor centre in Tunbridge Well, Kent. Participants will have accessible sailing boats and canoes at their disposal and will learn their chosen water sport with the help Oceans of Hope team. People of all levels of ability are welcome to take part and participants are invited to bring a friend, partner or carer if they wish.

The weekend of adventure will give those taking part the opportunity to challenge themselves and make the impossible possible, as they work together for a common goal. Participants will reside in the water sports centre’s fully accessible accommodation and facilities during their experience. The Oceans of Hope Challenge takes place 10-12 August.

Robert created the Oceans of Hope Challenge in 2015 and since then has shared the experience with over 200 people affected by multiple sclerosis. Sailing adventures in Scotland and New Zealand are also taking place in June 2018 and November 2018 respectively.

In September 2017 the challenge was acknowledged by The Sailing Today Awards, winning ‘Best Cruise’.

On the success of the Oceans of Hope Challenge, Robert Munns said: “I am amazed how the Oceans of Hope Challenge is developing, along with its potential to bring an element of hope to so many lives. It is my honour and privilege to be responsible for making sure that it is supported, and it continues in the spirit it was conceived”.

Former challenge participant Nicola Kaufman said of taking part in the experience: “I was diagnosed with MS in 2012 after several years of Ill health. Two years later, aged 38, I was medically retired and unable to do much independently due to fatigue, balance issues and lack of confidence. The future didn’t really hold much hope for me.

“Three months after retiring my mum told me about Oceans Of Hope. I met the founder, Mikkel Anthonisen, saw the boat, went for a sail and was inspired by the bravery of the crew. I knew it was an adventure I needed to be a part of, at a time when I needed it.

“I flew to the USA and sailed 400 miles from South Carolina to Florida. It was not all easy, but it was the adventure of a lifetime and I returned a different person; having discovered the joy of sailing and working as a team to achieve something amazing! I was so proud of myself and determined to continue learning to sail and having adventures.

“After the USA voyage I met another UK participant, Robert Munns. He had been inspired to organise more adventures so others living with MS would get the chance to experience what we had. We have since organised sailing flotilla events and sailing courses for people living with MS. Over the last three years I have sailed a further 1500 miles and gained my competent crew qualification. I am now preparing to do my day skipper training course, something I never imagined I would be capable of when I started sailing in 2014.

“Volunteering by helping to organise these events has given me a real sense of purpose in life by seeing the difference participating in these adventures can make in other people’s lives too, plus the chance for me to keep learning and sailing and continue being part of the wonderful oceans of hope family.”

Founder of Oceans of Hope, Dr. Mikkel Anthonisen says: “MS is a neurological disease. But it is also an existential disease that shows us all that no one knows what tomorrow brings. We are not in control of that. But we are always in control of the stories we tell about ourselves and each other and we are in control of the communities we create. Oceans of Hope sets through sailing the frame for human growth and creates a feeling of worthiness, meaning and hope.”