Lesley Johnson (53) is preparing to fly out to San Francisco on Thursday (10 April) to take part in the next leg of the challenging Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and to raise funds for BBC Children in Need.
In order to compete, Lesley is taking a two month break from her job as an operations director overseeing BBC Worldwide's DVD production. She will be joining the GREAT Britain team for the 5500 miles leg around the United States, via the Panama Canal and Jamaica, finishing in New York on 9 June.
“I see this very much as a personal challenge, but realised I could also share my experience and benefit a worthy cause at the same time; BBC Children in Need was the perfect fit for me as a BBC employee. I am aiming to raise £1 for every nautical mile,” explained Lesley. “The sailing is tough, 24 hours in all weathers and subject to the vagaries of ocean storms, it's scary and exhilarating, but the fact that I am doing some good for disadvantaged children will keep me going in the darkest hours."
Speaking of the challenge Sarah Monteith, Director of Marketing and Fundraising for BBC Children in Need, said: “Each year we’re amazed by the lengths that fundraisers like Lesley go to in support of the charity. This is a fantastic challenge, especially considering that Lesley had never even taken to the water 18 months ago!
“We all wish our BBC colleague every success with her journey. By undertaking it, Lesley will be helping us towards the vision that every child in the UK has a safe, happy and secure childhood, and the chance to reach their full potential. Our work is only made possible by the incredible generosity of our fundraisers, and we encourage everyone to dig deep and show their support. Best of luck, Lesley!”
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race was set up 18 years ago by legendary British yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in 1968-9, to encourage ordinary people to achieve something extraordinary by taking up the challenge of ocean racing.
Sir Robin said: “It’s fantastic to see people like Lesley take on the challenge of the Clipper Race. I know it will have a big impact on her, as it does all our crew members, but it’s also great that Lesley is raising money for a charity like BBC Children in Need at the same time. I am confident she will attract the support she deserves.”
Only last week there was a stark reminder of how tough the conditions can be when a crewman on the Clipper Race was rescued successfully after falling overboard in a fierce storm in the Pacific Ocean.
Lesley added: "Training was really tough but essential. There are moments of self doubt but the team spirit really pulls everyone through. We will be sailing 24/7 but I know that when I am wet and cold and tired in the middle of the night I will remember what I am raising money for and it will give me the strength to carry on."
To watch an interview with Lesley by the Press Association please click here
To date, Lesley has already raised in excess of £2,000. She can be sponsored via her Just Giving web site at: www.justgiving.com/lesleyjohnson61