Group begin on Thursday for aid charity

Nine Irish teenagers are setting off on a Round Ireland Challenge this Thursday in aid of the world’s largest charity hospital ship.

The sailors, who are aged between 16 and 19, will sail a 39ft yacht Sonas around the coast over six days to raise money for the international charity, Mercy Ships, which provides free medical and humanitarian aid to the poorest countries in Africa via a 500ft hospital ship, the Africa Mercy.

Ben Fusco (19), from Kinsale, will skipper the expedition and he said: ‘We are all keen sailors and wanted to combine our love of sailing with doing something for charity.

‘There are lots of great boat-related charities out there, but when we heard about the work of Mercy Ships, we were blown away by the idea that a ship provides free medical care to some of the poorest people in the world.

‘Hearing that thousands of people every year are given free medical care by volunteers on the ship was inspiring and we knew we had to do

something special to raise money for them – hence our Round Ireland Challenge.

‘Competing in the Round Ireland Race wasn’t an option for us this year so we’ve decided to do our very own version and hopefully it will all go to plan.’

The team will leave Kinsale Yacht Club on August 12 and, weather permitting, hope to return on the August 18.

A former Danish rail ferry, the Africa Mercy is currently in Togo and has six operating theatres, a 78 bed ward, CT scanner, X-ray facilities and laboratory services.

It has accommodation for more than 450 volunteer crew, ranging from surgeons and nurses, to cooks and engineers and over the last 30 years, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at £530million and impacting about 2.5million people.

Ben’s crew for the trip are watch leader James Bendon (18), bow Katy Mullins (17), trimmers Sean Murphy (17) and Katie Gambier Ross (16), crew/cook Tessa Kingston (16), trim/mast Ayden Clarke (18), trim/bow Sophie Scannell (18), and mast David Lee (19).