The Leeuwin Adventure of 2017 - Diabetes WA
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Diabetes WA offers one fully funded place for a type 1 participant aboard the Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Ultimate Challenge voyage. The opportunity is open to participants aged between 14 to 20 years old at the time of voyage.
The last voyage was from Wednesday 8 March – Sunday 12 March 2017, in which Diabetes WA sponsored James Fernihough. Here is a recap of the voyage, as told by James.

The voyage of a lifetime!

I received a phone call from Diabetes WA during my summer school holiday, just as the school year started. I was told I was the lucky person (the only one, this time) to have been offered a fully funded spot on the Leeuwin Ultimate Challenge! The news was incredible!

Since I was six I have been with my local sea scout group, 1st Canning. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just one week after my 10th birthday. It did interrupt with my scouts for a bit but as soon as we got a handle on this whole new world, I got back into it. Now at fifteen I sail almost every Saturday during summer and have a true passion for the under-appreciated sport. Sailing is definitely a big part of my life that I intend to keep doing until I cannot no more.

But the Leeuwin? It would be a whole new level, in territory I have never encountered before. It would open whole new areas of sailing I would never be able to experience on a small catamaran or 470.

Well the day had arrived, I packed my bag, waved goodbye to my mum and my two sisters, and hopped on board. After a few hours of training (most of which I spent staring at the magnificent ship) we sailed off into open waters.

The voyage was incredible, for five days it housed 15 volunteer crew and 30 crew members for the voyage. All but a few of the members had impairments, both physically and mentally and seeing all those people doing incredible things on board was truly awe inspiring. One of the incredible entries on the voyage was a man which had lost control of his legs. Permanently in a wheelchair, the led I win volunteer crew gave thus man an incredible opportunity by aiding his climb up one of the masts! Something this man would have never dreamed of doing was able to he accomplished because of the dedicated crew.


The Leeuwin II itself was of course amazing. With three masts; the fore, main, and mizzum masts; it holds 16 sails and a massive total of 810 metres square of sail area. It has 118 lines on board, each with a different unique purpose, and each needing to be operated. With a 3.4m undertow, 33m tall main mast and 55 metres long, it displaces 344 tonnes.

The days were spent eating, having fun and of course ship work. Climbing the masts to drop the sails, pulling and letting off ropes and many more jobs, even some cleaning, had to be done aboard.

The view off the ship was different with every passing hour. Naval ships, small and large, yachts and luxury ships, helicopters, even the occasional fighter jet. On the first night we anchored off the shore of Cottesloe and could see the sculpture by the sea exhibits, with the help of some binoculars.

The crew in particular were the amazing part of this journey. A group of people who had never met before came onto a boat for a life changing experience which we all experienced together. Of this group almost none had ever even stepped on a sail ship before but despite their differences and personal boundaries came together to form a crew of whom I am sure nobody will ever forget.

The biggest challenge on board faced us on our second last day. To reach what all of us before the voyage had thought un-achievable. To climb the 33 metre main mast, and read the plaque that rested on top. The challenge was hard, and many people didn’t even attempt it but of those who did all of us made it, reading the secret message which read as follows: this message has been removed. So now can you guess what the message says?

The experience was truly life-shaping. The people aboard with me, the experience and the memories will stay with me forever.

And the return…

Well, within a month, I was back on the Leeuwin! This time, volunteering as a crew member for a 4 hour sail. After the first voyage, I was told I would be welcome back any time as a volunteer, apparently the crew were very pleased with me. The experience was very different as to be expected. There were more jobs to be done, and more responsibility to take on board. The voyage was much more fast paced, as we weren’t teaching anyone how to do anything so we just got right into the action, preparing and setting the sails, turning them and then lowering them down again was all done very fast with every volunteer there to help.



The Leeuwin experience is something that I would recommend to any other person with a drive for excitement and a challenge, or someone who wants an experience unlike any other.

So for now, that is my Leeuwin story to share with you. I can’t wait to be back on board again next season!

  • James Fernihough

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