24-hour sailing race a breeze for Cooks Hill couple

SUPPORT: The Heaven Can Wait sailing event on Lake Macquarie this month will have particular resonance for Kelly White and husband Justin Henderson.
SUPPORT: The Heaven Can Wait sailing event on Lake Macquarie this month will have particular resonance for Kelly White and husband Justin Henderson.

Kelly White and Justin Henderson needed no extra motivation to compete in charity sailing race Heaven Can Wait.

They both love to sail. But the event charity also has particular resonance for the Cooks Hill couple.

The Heaven Can Wait regatta will be held from February 17-19 and raises funds for Home Help Program, run by Cancer Council NSW to provide domestic support to cancer patients while they are recovering from cancer treatment.

Henderson, 48, is a cancer survivor and the pair know all too well the importance of home care for cancer patients.

They both needed extended time off work through his treatment and then recovery.

White prepared all of her husband’s meals and supported him at home through the challenging time of their lives but they both saw patients who had no support.

“There are lots of fundraisers for cancer research but hardly any for care in the home. It is so important and it really does help recovery,” White said. “If he didn’t have me at that time, I think it would’ve been hell.”

Henderson said “just being able to get down to the park was a big thing for me” at the time. 

They will be on board Emmenar for the gruelling 24-hour sailing race as part of the Heaven Can Wait regatta on Lake Macquarie and 42-year-old White cannot wait to do it again after her first experience of an overnight race last year.

“I was the only foredeck crew last year so I didn’t sleep but this year there will be another lady so it’s possible, if it’s calm,” White said.

“In the wee hours of the morning when the wind drops off it’s possible but it will depend on what the winds do and if we are both needed.”

Both grew up around boats but did not rediscover their affinity with sailing until doing a learn-to-sail course on the lake over a decade ago. 

“I absolutely love sailing … it’s beautiful,” White said. 

“You’ve got these really intense moments of major adventure and major physical work and it’s really full on. When that’s finished and you're just sitting there, it’s peaceful and quiet and divine.

Last year was the first time I have done proper night sailing and it was just magnificent.

Kelly White

“Last year was the first time I have done proper night sailing and it was just magnificent.”

It will be the 11th year that the Heaven Can Wait Regatta is held and over 100 boats are expected to take part in the sailing program, which includes the One Lap Dash, a 12-hour race and the challenging 24-hour race.

The three-day regatta is part of Lakefest.

Heaven Can Wait was the brainchild of Lake Macquarie resident, keen sailor and cancer survivor Shaun Lewicki.

“Initially we wanted to raise funds for cancer research, particularly men’s cancers, while also promote sailing and the scenic Lake Macquarie region,” Lewicki said. 

“After liaising with Cancer Council NSW, we decided we would like funds from the race to establish a home support program for cancer patients in the Hunter.

“Now for the third consecutive year, the race has enabled over 200 families affected by cancer to receive in-home support to remove some of the stress associated with a cancer diagnosis.”