Transplant team will make waves in global yacht race

IT is a gruelling 40,000-mile challenge circumnavigating the world's oceans that pushes even the healthiest and hardiest of competitors to their limits.

SHIPSHAPE: Members of the transplant ambassadors' team, inset, and during training in the English Channel

The Capital is to enter the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race for a second time - with transplant patients helping to man the Edinburgh yacht.

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A ten-strong relay team of transplant patients from across the UK will race on board the yacht, including two kidney transplant patients, a liver transplant patient and a double lung transplant recipient. They will be accompanied by around eight doctors and nurses.

The transplant ambassadors' team hopes the race will reduce the national shortage of organs for transplantation by showing the potential that donations have to transform lives.

The project is being led by Stephen Wigmore, professor of transplantation surgery and the clinical lead for transplantation at the University of Edinburgh.

He said: "It's quite daunting but it is very exciting at the same time. We wanted to send out a really positive message so that people could see that if a patient who was really sick gets a transplant, they don't just get a little bit better, it completely transforms their life and they're able to do amazing things like sail around the world.

"We hope people will find what we're doing to be inspirational and we're looking to try to get people to sign up to the organ donor register."

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital will line up alongside nine other international teams for the 40,000-mile circumnavigation - the world's longest ocean race - when the event gets under way on the south coast of England on July 31.

More than 500 people representing more than 40 nationalities will be among the crew of the ten yachts. The fleet will visit 14 ports on six continents during the 12-month race, including Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, New Zealand, Singapore and New York before returning to the UK.

Among the transplant patients taking part is Alan Stewart, 48, from Eddleston in the Scottish Borders, who will cross the Pacific Ocean on his leg from China to California.

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The father-of-two developed kidney failure in 2007 and received a kidney transplant from his sister, Kathleen McHenry, at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in October 2009, which he said has "transformed" his life.

The pupil support teacher at Peebles High School said: "I'm dead excited and I can't wait, although I can't say that crossing the Pacific doesn't fill me with a certain amount of trepidation!"

City council leader Jenny Dawe said: "We want to promote the attraction of the capital city of Scotland. Port activities during the course of the race give us an ideal opportunity to promote our city."First Minister Alex Salmond has also offered his support to the event. He said: "I'm sure this year's participants will again be wonderful ambassadors for Scotland and an inspiration to others striving to overcome personal challenges and achieve their ambitions."

A spokesman for Essential Edinburgh, which represents city centre shops, said: "It's great for the city to have a team in such a high-profile event."

To sponsor the team, visit