Two adults, four youngsters, one boat and many, many months at sea – a family is embarking on an adventure of a lifetime to raise money for a little girl with a rare illness.
Sacha Beere, 51, and Lotty Thompson, 39, from Alnwick, have set themselves the ambitious goal of sailing from Plymouth to Assos, in Greece, in their yacht.
The couple will be joined at sea by their two children, Hector, five, and Phoebe-Plum, two, as well as Sacha’s older sons, Sam, 16, and Jack, 14, from Chester-le-Street.
The nautical challenge – which they have entitled Alnwick to Assos: A family sailing adventure – will be in aid of brave five-year-old Evie Campbell, from Shilbottle, who has a rare illness called Diamond Blackfan Anaemia, which is a blood condition where the bone marrow fails to produce red blood cells.
During their time on the water, the family also plans to sail the Atlantic to the Caribbean islands and America, with the aim of possibly returning to Northumberland in September 2018.
The journey aboard their 1952-built yacht, Yves Christian, is a realisation of a dream for Sacha.
He said: “We bought the boat last October and have planned this for a long, long time; we are feeling a mix of excitement and trepidation about this family adventure.
“I have been sailing since I was six. My dream has always been to buy a beautiful boat, live on her and see some beautiful places.
“The fact that we are raising money for a brave little girl in the process is even better.
“Hector and Evie both go to Swansfield Park Primary School, in Alnwick, and he really wants to help raise money for her. We are aiming to raise £1,000, but would be delighted if we could raise more than that because it is a fantastic cause.”
The upcoming sail will certainly be an adventure, but it will bring with it its own challenges and a completely different way of life.
Lotty, for instance, is prone to suffering sea sickness and has only recently overcome a fear of the water.
And she is preparing to home-school Hector from the boat, which was purportedly built for President de Gaulle’s finance minister.
Lotty, who taught at Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School for many years, said: “It is going to be interesting. Hector is really excited about the prospect of being taught on a boat.
“We have also had to plan ahead, with things like birthdays and Christmas; Hector has asked if Santa will know how to find us aboard the boat.We will also be teaching both children to sail.
“It will be a different way of life; one of the biggest challenges will be readjusting to a very different life at sea.”
She admits that she will also need to learn the ropes, describing herself as a novice sailor, but believes she has managed to conquer her fear of the water.
She said: “In the past I have been scared of the water. I overcame it last year while we were on our boat in Paxos and I have been working really hard, like keeping fit and swimming underwater. I have had to overcome it for the kids; I need to stay calm for them.”
Sacha, Lotty, Hector and Phoebe-Plum are leaving their Bridge Street home in Alnwick next week and travelling down to Plymouth.
On arrival in Devon, they will spend the next six to eight weeks sailing around the South coast before setting sail to Assos, in Kefalonia – the place where Lotty and Sacha first met.
“I will spend this time in Plymouth getting my sea legs,” says Lotty.
Then they will set sail to the Mediterranean, with the aim of reaching Assos towards the end of the summer.The quartet will be joined by Sam and Jack along the way.
Sacha said: “From here in Alnwick to Plymouth, Falmouth, La Coruna, Gibraltar, Majorca, Minorca, Sardinia, Italy, Corfu, Paxos and then finally Assos in Kefalonia.
“Alnwick to Assos – it all sounds easy if you say it quickly, but I’m sure weather and tide will dictate further stops and detours to make our safe passage.
“There’s plenty of scope for challenge and disaster but hopefully lots of fun as well.”
After their Mediterranean adventure, the aim is then to join the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers in November; which is an annual event setting sail from Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, and travelling 2,700 nautical miles westward across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
They will then see what lies ahead after that.
With four children aboard, especially two youngsters, Sacha and Lotty say safety is paramount and precautions have been taken.
Lotty said: “Sacha is a very good sailor – we are in safe hands with him. Hector is super excited and I will get to teach him all sorts of things like new cultures and marine life.
“Phoebe-Plum loves being on a boat. They are both naturals on the water.”
Sacha added: “We have taken precautions on the boat. There are life-jackets and netting around the side and we will be very clear with the children about the rules of going on-deck.
“My eldest children have sailed since they were young and they have been fine.
“Once you teach them the boundaries they understand and respect them.
“What we are doing is quite a challenge and like any sport, sailing can be dangerous and we will have to keep a close eye on the weather, but we won’t be rushing and we have planned our journey, and Yves Christian is a big ocean-going yacht.”
Whatever lies ahead, the family are relishing the challenge and can’t wait to begin their trip.
Lotty said: “When we have told people about this, they have said ‘what an adventure we will have.’ We will miss everyone, but we feel the time is right to do this; it is a one-off opportunity and we don’t want to miss the chance and regret it for the rest of our lives.”
The family has started a blog and will be continuing it during their adventure. To keep track of their progress and to donate to the cause, visit sailingyves.com The Sailing Yves Facebook page has also been set up.
About the boat
Yves Christian, a gaff ketch, was designed by Scottish naval architect WG McBryde and built in France for a French owner in 1952 – purportedly for President de Gaulle’s finance minister.
The boat was named after the owner’s two sons, Yves and Christian, and there are still gun racks to be found under the table for personal protection. She was commissioned for making long passages and Mediterranean cruising, but much more recently she has been based in Devon in the West Country as a family boat, and that is where Sacha and Lotty found her at the end of 2016. With an overall length of 62 feet and a width of 14 feet, she is an immensely strong ocean-going yacht made of oak beams with iroko planking.
At well over 40 tonnes she has a huge displacement that makes her sure-footed in heavy weather. She will accommodate up to nine people, but six in comfort.
Yves went through a massive refit/rebuild between 2000 and 2003 with no detail spared – it was the objective of her previous owner to own a boat which was as good, if not better, than when she was first launched.
Between January and March 2017, she went through a further refit at Stirling and Son Ltd at No1 Covered Slipway in Plymouth.
This yard is housed in a building designated as an ancient monument.
It was built in 1763 and ships for the Royal Navy, including one of Lord Nelson’s flagships, were constructed and launched there.