How sailing helped a hero get his life back

by Chris Kameen on July 19, 2013

We often hear the words “hero” and “idol” spoken and for sure I think there are many sailors that I have considered ‘heros’, but over the last couple of days I met and listened to a real hero.

Yachting Australia and the RYA have hosted a Yachtmaster Instructor Conference here in Sydney. This was a great opportunity to network with fellow instructors and listen to some really interesting speakers. Over the next week or so I will try and share some of the key messages that I learnt, specifically with regards dealing with drowning – which was fascinating and how sailing schools might work together to help ‘sell’ the leisure activity of sailing.


For me though the most inspiring talk was given by Allan Sparkes. Allan Sparkes was the first Australian police officer to be awarded Australia’s highest decoration for bravery, the Cross of Valour. His story of rescuing the little boy in the storm drain is frightening and yet to then realise the struggle that he had subsequently is heart breaking. That Allan was able to come back from chronic depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by breaking free and learning to sail is a story that all instructors should hear. This current affair clip will give you an insight:

I have always believed that by learning to sail, we open up an avenue for discovery; new places, new friends, new skills, new experiences. When you are cruising at sea the weather and the sea can be unpredictable, but with proper planning you are in control of yourdestiny and destination. Allan, through the support of his wife and family was able to alter the course of his life.

Thank-you Martin and Sonia for organising a great conference and to Allan for sharing his story


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