Liberty is being free from the things we don't like in order to be slaves of the things we do like.--Ernest Benn

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

When Virtual Sailing Is More Than Just a Game...

Posted by Paula, skipper of No Going Back:

Christine was one of the most amazing people I have ever met and will probably ever meet. She spent her life caring for others and she would often go out of her way to reach those who were in need.

Following the death of her husband about 18 years ago, she took the opportunity to realise one of her dreams and do some travelling. Over the next number of years she was enthralled to visit the Unites States, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus, France and Spain. A winter holiday in the sun had become an annual event in recent years and a couple years ago, she got great enjoyment from a bumpy camel ride across shifting sand dunes.

Just over 15 years ago, Christine joined and became an active member of her local Active Retirement Association and was delighted to be elected to the busy and challenging position of Secretary. The Association opened up new and exciting adventures, interests and activities for her, and her days and evenings became a helter skelter whirlwind of activities and outings.

All that changed suddenly when, about three years ago, Christine had a stroke. She now belonged to a new Association, this time for Stroke Victims. Instead of pleasurable activities her days were now filled with doctors' appointments, physiotherapy, various medication trials and hospital visits. Her motor muscles and speech were clumsy, her coordination and concentration poor.

Christine tried a number of activities to try and improve her circumstances - crossword puzzles, Sudoku, reading out loud and old fashioned touch typing on her newly acquired laptop. She was working on her own, without direction, and feeling isolated.

Myself and my sister,Trish, had boats in Volvo Ocean Race Game and decided that she needed a V70 to help with her rehabilitation. I helped her build a boat and choose colours whilst Trish explained about fat and thin wind arrows and sail changes. 'Foxrock' was now racing with Christine at the helm. A boat was also built for another sister so now we were a family at sea.

VORG was very user friendly and as Christine had a lot of time on her hands she soon became addicted. The compass rose was tweaked constantly, sails changed, meals taken before or after wind changes and 'on screen' messages sent and received. SMS messages and phone calls were made and returned with her three daughters when our boats were stopped, on the rocks or just to say 'Hello'.. She even had her own VORG friends and enjoyed fun and banter on screen from other sailors. She got a great buzz from some sailors who mildly flirted with her. Her many sleepless nights were often spent with the ever changing V70's keeping her company.

VORG helped her concentration, motor muscle movement, verbal and written communications. Christine also learned new skills as, like me, she had never stepped on a boat in her life. Imagine her excitement when during the middle of one race, Foxrock suddenly appeared on top of the leader board where she stayed for about 6 hours.

Christine helmed her boat until the end of VORG and enjoyed the summer away from her laptop. During that time she was bitterly disappointed her health didn't allow her to join Trish and myself in Galway for the official stopover with the real boats.

When summer was over I was anxious for Christine to build a Clipper to help continue her rehabilitation. Virtual Regatta was not as user friendly as VORG and she now became confused and sometimes lost her way trying to get Foxrock loaded. She struggled with wind change times and adjusting her sails. But quality time was spent with both Trish and myself as we gently encouraged her to steer Foxrock towards the finish line.

Christine got an aneurysm one evening at the end of October 2009 and slipped peacefully away. She was 83 years old, but behaved like a forty something. I had decided to let Foxrock drift peacefully on her own VR journey but after a few days saw her alone in the ocean so guided her safely to Cape Town, a city Christine had always wanted to visit.

Foxrock is now sailing with the Pilot boat and following our Clipper progress. I miss Christine and our chats, her support, advice and words of wisdom. I will especially think of her on March 14th next, Mothering Sunday, my first year ever without her.

Miss you Mum... XXX


  1. Thx for this GR8 contribution, Paula!

  2. Yes, guys. Life always trumps sport. But along the way, sport can buoy Life.