Theo was born, happy and healthy, on New. Year's Eve 2006. At the age of six months, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition of the retina called Leber's Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). He is now blind, and there is no treatment or cure - yet.
Finding a solution costs money, and this is where you can make a difference by purchasing the book Fight for Sight on Theo's Future: A Voyage of Hope & Endeavour by Theo's godfather who undertook a sailing marathon around Great Britain to raise money for this ground breaking work.
"I recommend you read this and be captivated."
Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward GBE, KCB, commander of the British Naval Forces in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War.
Mike sailed his 19 foot Cape Cutter named “Theo’s Future” 1,783 nautical miles around Great Britain to raise money for the internationally renowned team at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, who together are pioneering research and treatment for LCA. The team has recently completed the world’s first ever trial using gene therapy to treat LCA.
Many of the genetic defects that cause LCA have not yet been identified, and the team is desperate to find them all, so youngsters like Theo can get gene therapy early, making successful treatment much more reliable. It really is a race against time.
Mike’s voyage targeted £27,000 for the purchase of a light scanner system. By the time he arrived home after 86 challenging days at sea, a staggering £43,000 had been raised. The story of this remarkable achievement is vividly told in the book with all proceeds from its sale going to the charities Fight for Sight and the Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit.
£12.95 • Paperback • 212 pages
ISBN 978-090353040-8 • August 2013
Mike’s military career started in the Royal Marines but was cut short after he contacted a rare eye disease in the Far East that left him with impaired vision in his left eye. Luckily, he was able to transfer into the Army and finally retired from the Royal Engineers in 2003 after a combined innings across the globe of 36 years.
A fanatically keen sailor, he is an Olympic Triallist from the 1970s with Jack Knights in the Tempest class and won a European Gold medal with Rodney Pattisson in the Flying Dutchman in 1975 as well as European Silver and Bronze medals in the J24 class with Stuart and Adrian Jardine. More recently, he was a key member of the 49er skiff Race Team at the London 2012 Olympic Regatta in Weymouth/Portland. Having qualified in 1970 as one of the youngest ever Royal Naval Offshore Skippers at the age of 22, he has since amassed over 30,000 skipper miles worldwide including sailing 3000 nautical miles back to the UK from Cyprus in 1981 with Pippa and their two young sons, Simon (7) and James (5) in ‘Rose Rambler,’ a lovely wooden Virtue 35 and Humphrey Barton’s former flagship. More recently in 2005/6, he completed a double Atlantic crossing with a combined crew of family and friends in his 1980s Sweden 41, aptly named ‘Never Look Back.’ He collected everyone’s spare change (any currency will do!) along the way, amassing over £2,500 for whale and dolphin research at the Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit (CRRU) based at Gardenstown on the southern shore of Scotland’s Moray Firth.
On leaving the Forces, he set up his own company, SEASMART Ltd, delivering and managing people’s boats of all shapes and sizes. In parallel with this, both he and his wife, Pippa, run a Bed & Breakfast www.benbowbosham.co.uk in their delightful waterfront home at Bosham. Mike and Pippa have 3 young grandsons (Jack, Max & Harry) to keep them ‘on their toes’ plus a golden retriever named Woodi to welcome the B&B guests!
Fight for Sight is the main UK charity dedicated to funding pioneering research to prevent sight loss and treat eye disease.
Founded in 1965 the charity funds vital eye research into a wide range of eye diseases at 28 different universities and hospitals across the UK.
There are almost 2 million people in the UK who are living with sight loss and this can have a significant impact on their daily lives.
Fight for Sight is determined to provide a future that everyone can see. By working together and investing in eye research we will make sight loss a thing of the past.
To learn more about Fight for Sight’s work or to make a donation please visit: www.fightforsight.org.uk
Formed in 1997, the CRRU is a small non-profit research organisation based in northeast Scotland dedicated to the welfare, conservation and protection of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) through scientific investigation, environmental education, and the provision of a 24 hour veterinary service for sick, injured and stranded individuals.
In co-operation with universities, research institutions and international environmental agencies, principal studies focus on the coastal cetaceans frequenting the Moray Firth, providing baseline scientific data for the adoption of long-term management measures and conservation strategies for their protection.
Conducting advanced training courses in marine wildlife rescue, the CRRU also operates the only specialist response team in Scotland for live-stranded whales and dolphins. The fully-equipped team (scientists, veterinarians and qualified volunteers) are skilled and experienced to act and advise at the scene of a stranding with first aid, veterinary treatment and refloatation procedures as required. www.crru.org.uk/
From: His Parents – George and Elin
Our baby boy surprised us by arriving two months early on New Year’s Eve 2006. As we slowly got over the shock of being parents before we had read the manual, Theo came out of intensive care and then began to learn to feed. With the help of medical staff, family and friends we took Theo home after three weeks in hospital. All seemed well. Theo was a small baby with a big appetite and a lovely smile. He was fat, jolly and endlessly enchanting for his first time parents. We all got on with the early baby days.
We started to worry when it became clear that Theo was not looking into our eyes or following objects as, by then, he should have been. We hoped it was one of those things that would just take a bit longer. However, we did start to ask for some expert opinions just to make sure. To begin with they also felt that Theo would probably just take his time, but they ordered an ERG test to double check. The test measured the reactions of Theo’s retinas. A long six weeks after we had first seen the specialist we were back to get the results.
Theo’s diagnosis was not easy to hear. The news from the test was not good. Theo had been diagnosed with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a very rare (1 in 100,000), genetic condition which means that his retinas do not work and at best he might be able to see light and some shadows. We were told that nothing that could be done apart from starting to help Theo to live with his blindness. There is no cure. We were given one ray of hope for improving Theo’s vision – gene therapy. This might be something that in future could help Theo to see better.
Our first reaction was that we had a lovely little boy for whom nothing had changed that day and who had been enjoying life up till that day with no reason for that to change. Of course we were also desperately sad for all the challenges Theo would have to face and for all the things we felt he would never be able to do or see. We were in shock and there was so much to learn, we knew nothing about blindness. It was a difficult time which Theo got us through with his ongoing cheerfulness. It is very hard to feel sorry for your baby or for yourself when he is clearly relishing life.
We are resolved to do everything we can to make Theo’s life a full and happy one now and in the future. On the medical side that means doing all we can to hasten the development of gene therapy. This technology is still in its infancy, but it is developing fast. The first human gene therapy trials, for one of the genes that cause LCA, started in the UK at Moorfields Eye Hospital in 2007. Many of the gene defects that cause LCA have not yet been identified, but the UK is lucky to have people at the fore-front of this research. Professor Moore and his team at Moorfields have started a project to track down the remaining unknown faulty genes. Once they have all been identified – and if the trials prove a success – some kind of treatment could become available in the next 5 - 10 years.
Professor Moore’s research team was greatly aided in 2009 by the acquisition of a Fast Light Scanner which was funded via ‘Fight for Sight’ through Mike Brooke’s epic round Britain voyage in 2008.
Bob & Norma Brown built Theo’s Future, our sturdy little 19ft yacht. Beautifully finished in British Racing Green, she proved well up to the task and covered 1783 nautical miles round Britain in 86 days.
Looked after by Paul Austin and Andrew “Wooderz” Woodbridge who made a superb set of sails in Egyptian Cream coloured Dacron which enabled this seaworthy little craft to power herself round the shores of Britain in predominantly head winds most of the way.
Excellent advice and support from Christian Brewer which resulted in a complete set of new blocks for Theo’s Future. This enhancement significantly improved her sail and spar handling both in terms of efficiency and reliability. You can really depend upon a Barton block!
I have always admired Yamaha Outboards and the little 5hp outboard motor lent to us by David Martin of BHG Marine on behalf of David Pougher of Yamaha UK Ltd, proved exceptionally reliable and got us out of some tight spots around Britain’s rocky shores.
John and Ali Bland designed a fabulous spray hood and zip-on tent awning which created an extra cabin in the rain! John and Dougie Twine made both items to a very high standard which was just as well as we were taking ‘green seas’ over the bow during heavy weather – the quality spray hood kept the cabin dry at all times!
Thanks to Don McDougall and Jayne Brooke at The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism in London who provided a magnificent white gennaker emblazoned with all three islands together with Sir Turtle whose fighting spirit certainly contributed to our safe passage round the UK!
This amazing gadget, provided by Robert Goodall, enabled our position to be monitored constantly. Not only was this an important safety feature but it provided an accurate record of where Theo’s Future had been.
Thanks to James for a superb valise stowed lifejacket which I wore every day at sea on board Theo’s Future. Spinlock has just replaced my round Britain version with their latest model which includes an emergency cutting ‘c’ shaped safety blade. In my opinion, Spinlock have designed quite simply the best lifejacket system for yachtsmen in the world.
Builders of the world’s finest variable draft cruising yachts, the director, Lester Abbott, donated a solar panel which contributed to the battery charging throughout the voyage. Also, his partner, Claire Horsman, designed a pop-up stand which greatly assisted with marketing the fundraising campaign.
Mark Trevatt designed some of the most comfortable bunk cushions I have ever slept on and they were far superior to the standard ones. He included ingenious extra touches such as the back rests of the quarter berths doubled up as cockpit bunk cushions and the split cushions in the forepeak allowed easy access to the Portapotty.
Rod Daniel decided to underwrite our voyage despite the small vessel and the inherent risks involved. Without his confidence in my ability as a skipper, this voyage could not have taken place. Thank you also for discounting the premium.
These 4 bright green fenders were donated to Theo’s Future complete with her name embossed on each one. This was a lovely gesture by a small company of really useful items that were in use every time we came into port.
David Maltby produced a number of sponsor logos which adorned the hull throughout the voyage.
Designed by Nigel and Kay Glennie, these wacky but very useful items were of considerable benefit. There is never enough room to stow a bucket on a small boat but their collapsible one was ideal! Also, their scrunch buckets and children’s rubber seaside tools were well received by the blind centre near Newcastle – very tactile.
Stuart Anderson and his team supplied several items of discounted chandlery including the superb Danish LED Lopolight for the masthead with excellent all round visibility.
Rupert and his team supplied a wide range of discounted items such as safety equipment and flares as well as additional cordage. In addition to the Nautical Almanac, they were also able to obtain the full chart coverage for UK coastal waters and all the necessary regional tidal atlases.
Having met quite recently, Chris Hatton has become linked to the Theo’s Future ongoing project via his superb photography. He has kindly agreed to be the project’s official photographer for the Southampton Boat Show and beyond.