Ausome Charity takes on the awesome Fastnet yacht race with an autistic crew
Ausome, a registered charity promoting the personal and social growth of individuals of all ages who have Autism Spectrum Conditions through an exciting programme of sailing, has launched a campaign to compete with an autistic crew of nine sailors in the challenging 608 nautical mile 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race.
The Fastnet Race is a biennial offshore yacht race organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club. Named after the Fastnet Rock off southern Ireland which the race course rounds after setting off from Cowes, Isle of Wight and finishing 608 nautical miles later in Plymouth. The ‘Fastnet’ is generally considered one of the world’s classic offshore races, thoroughly testing the skills of crew and boat.
The founder and a trustee of Ausome, Lottie Harland, who is herself autistic, will skipper the yacht Lyra of London, a Nautor Swan 431 based in Burnham-on-Crouch and kindly loaned to the campaign by its owner Miles Delap. Lottie, now 22 years old, had a difficult childhood but started sailing at nine years of age and this built her confidence and the self-esteem that was knocked out of her by the constant bullying in school. These positive sailing experiences helped her develop the life and social skills to become an independent and successful young adult, graduating with an engineering degree from university and becoming a qualified RYA Offshore Yachtmaster. The campaign is already off to a good start as the East Anglian Offshore Racing Association (EAORA) has selected Ausome as its nominated charity and has donated funds raised at its annual dinner along with generous donations from other individuals and organisations, including Forensic Healthcare Services Ltd.
In addition to herself as skipper, the core crew comprises of Alex Ahmann, a trustee of Ausome and originally from California, USA but currently studying at university in the UK and with experience on tall ships and yachts and who was diagnosed with autism just before coming to the UK; Max Delap who was diagnosed with autism at an early age, has just started university and sails regularly on Lyra; Michael Sanchirico from the Michigan, USA and who sails on the Great Lakes with Set Sail for Autism; and finally George Beevor, an experienced sailor having raced inshore and offshore on his own yachts, including an Impala 28 and a Sagitta 35. George is not diagnosed but is one of the three trustees of the charity. Ausome is currently running a programme to train other autistic people, both sailors and non-sailors, who will compete in the qualifying offshore races over the coming months before the final crew selection takes place for the ‘Fastnet’ itself in August.
Lottie founded Ausome to help other autistic people experience the benefits and joys of sailing. Autistic people can struggle to get into sailing on their own because new places and situations can cause immense anxiety, therefore participating in regular courses at a sailing school with people they don’t know and instructors who may not be aware of autism can be completely unfeasible. Other sailing charities set up to help people with disabilities are also not the right environment for these autistic people, for example they can be noisy with non-verbal sailors trying to communicate or the boats used are generally not appropriate for someone who has no physical disabilities. Ausome was founded to bridge this gap in services for those autistic people looking to experience sailing for the first time or to further their skills.
Lottie Harland, trustee of Ausome, commented: “When I thought about founding Ausome it was my dream to both help individuals on the autistic spectrum experience the positive influences sailing can bring to them and to help raise awareness of this often hidden and misunderstood condition that impacts so many people. I needed a goal to build this around and the ‘Fastnet’ campaign became the foundation to help launch the charity. Sailing gives such a positive experience along with many life skills to autistic people but of course is expensive and so we can only complete the race with donations from the public and sponsorship from companies. Since launching the campaign, I have been overwhelmed by the generosity we have received. In particular, Miles Delap for loaning his yacht to the charity for the race and EAORA for nominating us as their chosen charity. We are now looking forward to a busy year preparing for this challenge and raising the remainder of the funds needed. But it doesn’t stop there and once we have completed the Fastnet Campaign we will be working on delivering further opportunities to benefit autistic people.”
Donations can be made to the Ausome Fastnet campaign through: