In a bid to raise funds for United Response, Justin Besley took on the first four legs of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, in memory of his brother. We talk to him about his experience and how he has raised an astonishing £7,825 so far.

What made you take on the challenge?

A couple of years ago a friend completed a leg of the race. I was about to turn 60 and recognized that it was time to live the dream to sail in the Southern Ocean, so I signed up.

What is your experience of United Response?

United Response looked after my brother, Donnie, for 15 years. Donnie was taken into care in his early teens, in various large and impersonal hospitals for people with learning difficulties. But United Response changed this, and his life became increasingly enriched when he started living as part of the community where he became part of a new family. The staff at United Response are truly exceptional people.

What were the most challenging and the most enjoyable points?

Sydney harbour on Boxing Day at the start of the Hobart Race was memorable. Hundreds of spectators’ boats, dancing bright in the colour of an Australian summer, set against the iconic bridge and opera house. 94 racing yachts vied for advantage, to be the first over the line - we were a spectacle!

As for the harder times; we experienced incredibly heavy hurricane force winds in the Southern Ocean. None of us had experienced anything like it and we all admitted that we were scared. Over the journey, I also lost one and half stone and learned to yearn for pasta dinners and porridge.

Did the support and donations from back home spur you on?

Without doubt! I thought about leaving the boat after the Sydney to Hobart race. I was tired, it was a New Year, and we had completed one of the world’s “classic” ocean races. But I would not have been true to myself, nor to those who had so generously donated on the basis that I finished what I set out to do.  I am very glad that I did go on to complete those extra 10 days from Hobart to Brisbane!

How did you manage to raise such an incredible amount?

The challenge seemed to capture the imagination of people. I wrote regular blogs and a crew diary, and emailed them to family, friends, work colleagues and businesses, including a link to my online fundraising page. I think some became genuinely engaged in my voyage as they received reminders in a gently way. People were incredibly generous, and donations continued throughout the time I was on board.  I think donors saw what an incredibly important part United Response plays in the lives of people like Donnie, and wanted to show their support for such a great cause.

Do you have any advice for others looking to take on a challenge?  

Being certain why you are taking on the challenge is key. Nearly all the crew had a catalyst for taking part in the Clipper race. This was the foundation for strong individual motivation.

When things got a bit tough along the way, the negative thoughts, “why am I doing this? did sometimes come into my mind. I quickly banished such thoughts, by focussing on my own positive rationale.  It does work. Making the commitment is half the battle. Stop wondering ‘can I?’ While you should never underestimate your challenge, once you get started on preparation and training, you are on your way to completing it.

Justin was talking to Sarah Riddlestone, fundraising administrator

If you’d like to take on a challenge on behalf of United Response contact our fundraising team or visit our events page for more information.