Vet Neil to take to the high seas for charity

Neil at the helm
Neil at the helm

A Deeside vet is hanging up his gloves and taking to the helm of a 70 foot sailing vessel for a nautical charity close to his heart.

Neil Cockburn, from Banchory, has set himself the challenge of sailing from Oban on the mainland to the island of St. Kilda for the Ocean Youth Trust Scotland (OYT).

His six-day journey will take place between August 26 and September 1.

The charity owns three vessels, including two former 72 foot former “BT Global Challenge” racing yachts.

Youngsters between 12 and 14 from schools (including Banchory Academy) are then are put in full charge of the vessel, with everything from navigating to cooking the meals left in the pupil’s control.

While a professional skipper is there to make sure nothing goes wrong, the pupils are left to captain their own ship.

Neil found his inspiration for the journey after his daughters took part in the adventure at school.

He told the Piper: “My daughters went and had a fantastic time. They seemed to have learned a lot and really enjoyed themselves. Slightly envious I thought I’d give it a go myself.”

Neil has twice tried and failed to get to the island but he is hoping three will be his lucky number.

“I know how challenging these seas can be. I’ve done a bit of sailing before so I think it’ll either prove a doddle or a huge challenge!”

Neil has already paid for the trip so every pound donated will go straight to the charity.

Neil said the OYT provides the young skippers: “The West Coast arguably provides the best sailing area in the world. Every year the Ocean Youth trust take around 1,000 Scottish teenagers and young adults out of the comfort zone of their daily lives The purpose of the St Kilda Challenge is to raise the profile of the Ocean Youth Trust in Scotland and in doing so to raise much needed funds to enable even more youngsters to participate in these mindblowing and life changing voyages.”

At the time of writing 16 people have donated bringing Neil’s total to £1,440.

He hopes to raise £2,500 before setting sail.

Messages of support have flooded into his charity website from friends and family.

To sponsor Neil you can donate through: