Scratby woman rises to dizzying heights in ship race

IT is a task that would breathe fear into the hearts of the most experienced seaman.

But when Scratby pensioner Betty Brown was given the chance to sit in the gods of a tall ship, she embraced it with a smile.

The daredevil act was just one of many memorable experiences the 78-year-old enjoyed when she joined dozens of wheelchair users and physically able crew in a nautical race across the English Channel.

The event was held to mark the 25th anniversary of the Lord Nelson and pitched the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s two tall ships in a sprint from Solent, Southampton, to Cherbourg. France – and back again.

Betty, who has been in a wheelchair since she contracted polio as a teenager, joined a crew ranging from 18 to 80 on the historical ship The Tenacious, which was up against the Lord Nelson.

Describing her experience, the former deputy head of Greenacre School, Great Yarmouth, said it was wonderful to be part of such a fantastic crew.

She said: “Even though you are a disabled crew member you still have to do just as much work as the physically able crew.

Most Read

“There was a moment when I thought what the hell am I doing being thrown about in a wheel chair on a boat and feeling sea sick.

“But as I was winched up to the top of the boat it was fantastic. When I was being pulled up they apologised for swinging me around, but I said ‘don’t worry, I like swinging around’.

“I was up top for quarter of an hour. You could see right across the town of Cherbourg and see everything that was going on. You could even see the other ships coming in - it was amazing.”

But the journey was not all plain sailing for Betty and the rest of the crew as one sail ripped and the other was lost on their way home.

The damage ultimately cost them the race as they were forced to travel back to the UK at a much slower pace.

However, this set back did not take a shine off Betty’s experience. She added: “Being disabled encourages you to be more determined to be physically active.”