Fundraisers, ahoy!

Fundraisers, ahoy!

Sailors with a range of abilities will race in next weekend's annual 24-hour charity event

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Next weekend's 24-hour charity dinghy event will see student Jack Barnfather (top) compete for a fifth year.
Next weekend's 24-hour charity dinghy event will see student Jack Barnfather (top) compete for a fifth year.
Photos: Kevin Kung/SCMP
Competitors with mental and physical disabilities will race against able-bodied youngsters and adults in Hebe Haven Yacht Club's 10th 24-hour Charity Dingy Race next weekend.

This year's event - Southeast Asia's only 24-hour endurance race and one of only four held worldwide - takes place from 2pm on Saturday until 2pm on Sunday.

The competition, which also features participating teams from Shanghai, Macau, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and South Korea, will raise money for four Hong Kong charities. These are the Children's Cancer Foundation, Enlighten - Action for Epilepsy, Treats, which helps local children to integrate socially, and Ideal - the Intellectually Disabled Education and Advocacy League.

More than HK$8.5 million has been collected for charity at the nine 24-hour races held since 2003. Organisers hope this year's event will raise HK$1.5million to share between the four different organisations.

The teams have to complete as many laps of the sailing course as they can in the 24 hours.

The event will also feature a special carnival, where competitors, their families and friends, and members of the public can relax and enjoy good food and music, while keeping an eye on the progress of all the dinghies.

One sailor, Jack Barnfather, 14, who is a Year-10 student at King George V School, will be competing in his fifth 24-hour race. Jack, who lives in Sai Kung, started learning to sail at Hebe Haven when he was only five.

"When I was nine, my sailing coach asked me to join Hebe Haven's team in the fifth 24-Hour Charity Dinghy Race. At the time, I was quite scared that I wouldn't be able to handle such a challenging task."

However, Jack found that he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

"The older kids helped the younger ones in the race and we had a good time meeting neighbours and making new friends from all around Hong Kong," he says.

Even at that young age, he realised that the race was about more than winners and losers.

"To me, the 24-hour race is not really about winning: the true meaning behind it is about helping others in need in our community. If I saw people in the race getting into trouble in their boat, or capsizing, I wouldn't take advantage and speed up to take the lead. Instead, I'd stop and help these other sailors first."

This attitude is why, even though Jack has chosen to represent Hebe Haven in the race, spectators may well see him sailing in the boats of other teams. "Every team needs to have members take it in turns sailing non-stop," he says. "In the past, sometimes teams have been exhausted and needed a longer break, and left the boat moored up. So I've just jumped aboard and helped them keep their boat sailing, until they were ready to take over again. "It's really not only about racing, but also about responsibility and caring for others; I've learnt these values from the race."

Jack, who has been an assistant instructor at the club for the past two years, has taught sailing to people from all walks of life.

"I've given classes to physically and mentally challenged students, and accompanied them sailing, too," he says. "Everyone should have an equal chance to go sailing."

Some of his students have been supported by Sailability Hong Kong, a charity offering facilities and training to disabled people who wish to take to the open seas.

Sailability Hong Kong teams will race for the second time this year. "It's great to see people who can benefit from the funds raised from the race also participating," Jack says.

The event is open to the public. Visit www.hhyc.org.hk for details.

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