A MAN from Southampton, who spent seven years in a nursing home due to a spinal injury, has embarked on a solo sailing trip around the UK and Ireland to help other disabled people sail independently.

Ian Wyllie, who lives with the effects of a spinal injury, recently left a nursing home in Nursling after seven years of care. The Southampton resident is entering the second phase of his sail solo round the UK and Ireland to support a specialist charity who help disabled people become independent on the water.

The Andrew Cassell Foundation played a significant role in Mr Wyllie’s rehabilitation. To show his thanks, Ian has so far raised more than £1,900 and hopes to achieve £15,000 through crowdfunding by the end of the trip. The 43-year-old has sailed down the south coast of England and now waits in Ireland to start the final two thirds of his trip.

Ian said: “You can help the Andrew Cassell Foundation get disabled people sailing, and often make massive strides towards independence finding new hope and purpose. I know that times are tough for everyone at the moment, something that’s especially true for disabled people. Any gift you can offer will be hugely appreciated by the foundation.”

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The former service man started sailing with the foundation two years ago, at which time he could barely stand un-assisted, whilst walking the length of a 23-foot-long boat left him exhausted. But Ian’s passion for sailing remained so through careful training, problem solving and mentoring from the foundation the keen sailor worked his way back up to sailing independently.

Ian was injured in the Royal Navy years ago at the start of his service as an engineering officer. He then moved to Highfield in Southampton after finishing university there and gaining a PhD with the Institute of Sound and Vibration. Towards the end of his PhD, Ian, then in his 30s, began to suffer from serious infections. In combination with mental health problems as a result of the injury, Ian was left needing a nursing home. Now, the 43 year old continues to use a wheelchair for distance mobility and walks with heavy duty leg braces, as well as having the usual complications of spinal injury with urinary and faecal incontinence.

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Prior to Ian’s sailing mission, the ex-engineering officer was living in Rownhams and was a frequent visitor to Romsey and the Ampfield, Chilworth and North Baddesley (ACNB) church group. Ian worshipped across all the churches in the group from 2015-2022 whilst a resident at Kingfisher Court nursing home. The care Ian received from medics at home and the local surgery in North Baddesley helped to stabilise the academic’s health. 

Ian said: “Being in this very poor health was really difficult. In particular, I found I missed wild places a lot, and I was very grateful to places like Romsey Abbey and Hilliers Arboretum which helped to soothe my soul at particularly difficult times. As my health stabilised, I couldn’t work out how to get myself to a level where I was back living more independently. It’s been a massive struggle, and I can’t thank the Andrew Cassell Foundation enough. Their contribution and guidance of my hard work has been invaluable.” 

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Matt Grier, director of the Andrew Cassle Foundation said: “Ian has come so far since we meet him out of the 1st 2022 lockdown, from arriving in an electric wheelchair, with a career only able to walk 20ft with sticks, Ian instantly re-kindled his love for being on the water. Since that day he had gone from strength to strength, helping in the background of the charity, using his skills to help us as well as training hard to become a skipper with ACF and plus gaining some much need RYA qualifications. There has been lots of downs as his body would often try to give up, but with a little mental health check in, reminding of how far he has come and a little rest and care, he has just improved and improved. We are so proud of what he is doing and doing so in such a safe way but not rushing and managing his bodies needs in the process a lot with caring so much about others.”

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Ian and his boat Trilleen, a Vancouver 27, left The Solent on Monday, August 15. The experienced sailor has now crossed the Celtic Sea to Kinsale, a secure harbour, where he’ll meet the Sailability project at Kinsale Yacht Club. Next, Mr Wyllie will then wait for an appropriate weather window to begin his journey round the west coast of Ireland- a more complex section. Ian plans to get to Glasgow by the end of October, before taking a break for Winter and resuming in the spring of 2023.

See below: Ian's longest ever solo passage across the Celtic Sea (Irish Sea) from Falmouth to Kinsale.

Although he is sailing solo, Ian isn’t sailing non-stop, with various breaks planned along the way. Including, talks about the work of the Andrew Cassell Foundation and competing in races against able bodied sailors. During Cowes Week, at the beginning of August, Ian achieved second place amongst a fleet of 18.

The foundation enables individuals with disabilities and impairments to race competitively in sailing on a level playing field with and against able bodied sailors. For more go to acfsailing.org/.

And for more on Ian Wyllie’s journey and his Crowdfunder go to sailingtrilleen.org

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