One year ago sailing was an alien experience for Hailsham cancer survivor Lillie Killick, but after taking part in the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race on Saturday (June 21) she said she can’t wait for more.
Diagnosed with leukaemia in 2010, the 18-year-old finished her final treatment in March last year before being invited to join the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust during the summer.
Set up in 2003 by retired British sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur, the Trust gives young people in recovery from cancer the chance to rebuild their confidence through sailing and is the official charity of the annual 50-nautical mile circuit race around the Isle of Wight.
And with one previous four-day trip already under her belt, Sussex Downs College pupil Lillie joined 16,000 competitors across 1,584 boats to contest the 83rd edition over the weekend.
Less than favourable wind conditions meant for a long day out on the water for all involved but Lillie could not wipe the smile off her face.
She said: “Last August I got invited on my first trip, I had never been sailing before and just wanted to try something different. I was quite confident before the race, although there was a lot of competitive banter going on between the Trust boats. It was loads of fun and all my friends were jealous that I was doing it.
“When I was undergoing my treatment I didn’t even imagine I would be the person I am now, the Trust has done so much for me. I came along and met a load of new people who I could talk with about things I can’t talk about with my friends and family because they’ve been through a similar thing to me.
“I definitely want to carry on sailing, I want to learn how to do it properly by myself and one day buy my own boat.”
With winds at a minimum, racing was well off the record pace set by Sir Ben Ainslie in 2013 with line honours this time round going to Pete Cumming aboard GC32 Team Richard Mille in 8:51.37 hours.
Lillie was not the only Sussex representative on the water, with J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race regular Clive Wilding of Uckfield crossing the line in 11:53.54 hours onboard Fast 42 boat Phezulu.
The J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race is one of the largest participation sporting events in the UK and the largest yacht race of its kind in the world. Organised by the Island Sailing Club in Cowes, it is dubbed ‘Britain’s favourite yacht race’, regularly attracting around 1,500 boats and 16,000 competitors.