John Dennis Looking to use Velux 5 Oceans Race to Raise Funds for Diabetes.


Some people go sailing to promote brands, some do it to promote themselves. An increasing number do it to promote tourist destinations and some promote causes. The concept of having someone else pay for you to go sailing requires that you deliver something back to that community. Some communities are ready-made due to a common experience. These can be broad, nationalistic bonds like people in New Zealand following Emirates Team NZ, or the experience of having to live with a condition like diabetes.

Canadian native John Dennis is set to take on the challenge of the 2010 Velux 5 Oceans. Dennis (65)  has gone from managing his diabetes through diet, exercise and oral medication, to being insulin dependent which necessitates four self-administered injections a day.

Dennis is keenly aware that circumnavigating the globe solo pushes the limits of a sailor’s mental and physical abilities – but he is determined to prove that you can take on adventure and control diabetes. He also hopes to reach those who become despondent after receiving the diagnosis – diabetes is, after all, incurable – and demonstrate that leading a normal life is possible. Dennis was intimately familiar with the illness when he received his diagnosis in 1994 at age 49 as his wife, Penny, had been diagnosed with diabetes six years earlier. Dennis has several goals in undertaking this campaign: to create awareness of the cost of diabetes on healthcare budgets, to motivate diabetics to better manage their condition and to fight the discrimination diabetics face.

He says:

“My campaign is based on my being a well-managed diabetic and being able to compete because I manage my diabetes. Diabetes does not manage or define me.”

Among the numerous sailing races that circumnavigate the globe, in which the competitors race at their own peril, the Velux 5 Oceans is notable for allowing Dennis to compete. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Chairman of Clipper Ventures and the Velux 5 Oceans, has welcomed Dennis back as the only diabetic to compete in the race.

But like all sailors, there is a question of sponsorship. The real challenge for Dennis will be raising the 1.2 million dollars needed to undertake the race – by the end of June.

There are 23.6 million people in the U.S.A. with diabetes, and 1.6 million new cases annually diagnosed. In Canada, the number is around 3 million. John Dennis hopes that some of them will help him fund his challenge. The campaign will also provide diabetes associations to raise funds directly for themselves as he races around the world.

“I have to be funded by June 30th or I can’t go. Basically I need 4,000 donors to each contribute $300, or more donors to contribute lesser amounts. I have my eye on an Open 60 which is in good condition and if the yacht does not need many repairs or upgrades, I may be able to do the race on a lower budget.”

Photo by Billy Black…