1. ITV Report

Lord Nelson: Meet the crew

The Lord Nelson sets sail Photo: Sam Stronge

The Jubilee Sailing Trust's tall ship Lord Nelson is making her maiden voyage around the world. The trip will take two years, cover 50,000 miles, and visit 30 countries on all seven continents.

It is the most ambitious challenge ever undertaken by the trust, which was founded 35 years ago to enable able-bodied and disabled people to sail a tall ship side by side.

The Lord Nelson was the first ship of her kind specially designed and built so that people of all abilities can play their part in crewing her. Since she first sailed in 1986, 10,000 people with a physical disability have sailed on her, 4,000 of them were wheelchair users.

The Sail the World challenge began on October 21 last year when the Lord Nelson set sail from her home port of Southampton. She crossed the Atlantic to spend Christmas and New Year in Rio de Janeiro.

"This is an absolute first," says the JST's Chief Executive Alex Lochrane. "The trust has been in existence for 35 years and until now we'd never been across the equator. This is groundbreaking.

"This is a marathon, a long, long journey. We have to recognise we are going to have highs and lows, triumphs and defeats, we're going to have a lot of challenges we haven't predicted yet, we are going to learn an awful lot.

"But the trustees and I and the whole team and the crews know that we are going to change the face of the JST, we are taking the trust to the next chapter in showing not only can we take multiple ability people to sea but actually this trust can take its message around the world."

Alex Lochrane Credit: Richard Jones

Among the voyage crew taking part in the circumnavigation are soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's hoped the experience aboard will help them adjust to their changed circumstances.

Mike Drummond-Smith is the casualty officer of the Rifles Regiment and runs the charity Care for Casualties.

"We are always looking for new and innovative ways of getting our wounded lads - whether they are physically wounded or suffering mental trauma - back to work. The JST seemed to tick all the boxes," he says.

"It's a great charity and the fact that injured soldiers are working in a physically demanding environment with a whole bunch of other people who are themselves disabled really helps them with their self-confidence and their social integration. It gives them another skill and it opens their eyes to something different."

Mike Drummond Credit: Richard Jones

Among those aboard for the crossing from Rio to Cape Town was 21-year-old Kyle Baker, from Chepstow, who was injured in Afghanistan in 2009. He suffered terrible injuries and spent months in hospital. He was medically discharged from the army because of his disabilities. He's sailed with the Jubilee Sailing Trust before and jumped at the chance to cross the Atlantic.

"I'm looking forward to the experience and the people you meet," said Kyle before he flew to Rio to join the ship. "You're on the ship for 40 days together so you get a proper bond and it reminds me of the Army. You're in watches and you do everything together."

Mike Drummond-Smith hopes the time away from home will help Kyle get on with his life when he gets back.

"I've got huge admiration for Kyle," he says. "He's one of our most badly injured soldiers, he's been through an awful lot over the past few years, he's so positive, so cheery, he never feels sorry for himself. He's been through an awful lot and this will help draw a line in the sand."

Kyle Baker Credit: Richard Jones

On her way around the world the Lord Nelson will be spreading the JST's message that disabled people can rise to the challenge of crewing a tall ship at sea.

In many of the ports she'll visit, disabled people from the local area will be joining the ship for short voyages. For some it will he their first time at sea, for most it will be their first time aboard a tall ship.

Among the South Africans who joined the ship in Cape Town was accountant Versha Rowjee.

"Being a person with a disability, you face challenges on a daily basis and sometimes you get tired of it," she says. "You think I don't want to get out of bed today, I don't want to do this.

"But there are people out there who can help, you can do things out of your comfort zone. Doing this reminded me that you should stick with your dreams and there are people out there who can help you do it."

Fellow South African Russell Vollmer is a much more experienced sailor. He's used a wheelchair since a diving accident in 1976 but took part in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games as part of his country's sailing team. He sailed aboard the Lord Nelson for a few days off the South African coast

"It was stunning," he says. "It took my sailing experience to a whole new level. I was in my own wheelchair, whereas in my own yacht I abandon my wheelchair. To me this was something really special."

But the JST is finding that attitudes towards disabled people and facilities for them vary from country to country. Rio is preparing to host the next Olympics and Paralympics in 2016.

"We went to Rio with disabled people on board thinking it is hosting the next Paralympics, it will be ready to take us on," says Alex Lochrane.

"But not yet. The attitudes towards disabled people are very different to what we have come to expect."

On board though morale is high and the response to the first few months of the voyage has been overwhelmingly positive.

Lee Hayward and Terry Whitty, from Plymouth, are both Royal Navy veterans who were medically discharged. Both went to sea at an early age and being aboard the Lord Nelson is like returning home.

"You get out of it what you put in," says Lee. "There is such a mixed bag of people, everyone mixes in and if you can't do something, everyone else helps out, and we do things together. You have support to help push yourself, whereas out in the real world you're out on your own."

"To be able to go aboard," says Terry. "And do something you thought you'd never be able to do because of your disability is out of this world.

"My back is killing me, but it is a lovely experience."

Lee and Terry Credit: Richard Jones

The ship is currently in Kochi in India. From there she heads south to Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. Next year she heads across the Pacific to Argentina, south to Antarctica, then up though the Caribbean to Canada before making her way home across the Atlantic one more time.

She's due to return to her home of Southampton in September 2014.

For more details on the Jubilee Sailing Trust and Sail the World visit www.jst.org.uk