Tag Archives: NMMA

Cancer-Surviving Sailor to Embark on $1 Million Circumnavigation for Charity

Cancer survivor, sailor and second-generation boat builder Johannes “Jopie” Helsen plans to embark on a $1 million around-the-world fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Heidi Trilsch and Jopie Helsen are set to sail around the world to fundraise $1 million for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Born in Holland and now living in St. Petersburg, Fla., Helsen, the owner of Sailor’s Wharf Yacht Yard, was diagnosed with throat cancer five years ago after experiencing pain and soreness during a sailing trip in the Mediterranean.

“I found myself rubbing my neck and I figured, with my luck, I better go see a doctor,” said Helsen, who was treated at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Fla.

Inspired by the many patients and survivors he met during treatment, Helsen knew he wanted to do something to help the fight against cancer.

During the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md., he met Marty Siederer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society [LLS] and Product Lead for the Leukemia Cup Regatta. Helsen discussed with Siederer his idea – to raise $1 million during a round-the-world sailing fundraiser for the charity.

“We’re so grateful for what he’s done to support and increase awareness of our organization,” said Siederer, who’s been with the LLS for nearly 40 years. “People like Jopie are just incredible ambassadors, whether you’re into the sailing community or not, to help cure cancer. That’s a very high quality and we’re so grateful for his help.”

With Siederer’s support, the first step toward such an adventure meant that Helsen, alongside his girlfriend Heidi Trilsch, needed a boat – a hearty, seaworthy vessel built to withstand the 15-month voyage known as the World Arc.

Hosted by the World Cruising Club, World Arc is a 26,000 nautical-mile trade wind circumnavigation that departs Jan. 12, 2019 from Saint Lucia island in the Caribbean to sail around the globe – most of which in the southern hemisphere.

While Helsen and Trilsch, whose stepmother is a Lymphoma survivor, will have long stretches at sea (the longest leg is 2,980 miles across the Pacific), World Arc includes opportunities for on-shore exploration – with close to 30 stops around the world at destinations like the Galapagos Islands, Bora Bora and Cape Town, South Africa.

Illustration courtesy of the World Cruising Club.

Finding the right boat for such a venture was no easy task. For Helsen, it not only had to be strong and capable for the harsh conditions at sea, but also comfortable and spacious enough for he and Trilsch, a videographer and an occasional crew member.

“We actually made an offer on two different boats that we did not get,” said Helsen, aged 71. “And now, looking back on it, we realize how impressive this boat is.”

With its sky-blue hull and matching spinnaker, Helsen purchased the aptly named and visually stunning SKY – a 57-foot dual-helm Vaudrey Miller monohull built in New Zealand and designed by Simonis Voogd in 2004.

SKY – the 57-foot monohull Helsen and Trilsch will sail around the world.

While originally built for the extremes of circumnavigation, Helsen said SKY had taken a beating over the years and needed some remodeling and upgrades ahead of the 2019 voyage.

Over the course of nearly one year, Helsen and his 13-person crew at his yacht yard worked on renovating SKY– outfitting the boat with a self-furling boom, enlarging the cockpit and making it possible for Helsen to sail single-handedly, should the need arise.

Because 100 percent of donations go to the LLS, Helsen said he needs sponsors to help offset the costs and supply parts and equipment.

When TACO Marine VP Mike Kushner got wind of Helsen’s fundraiser and SKY renovations, he arranged for the company to donate brand new Rigid Vinyl Rub Rail with a stainless-steel insert, LED lights, a custom-made helm chair and a pedestal for the boat.

TACO donated new LED Lights, which help illuminate SKY’s cockpit for enhanced safety at night.

“He’s one of these guys who’s very passionate and very active in the boating industry,” said Kushner, who first met Helsen more than 30 years ago. “Having done the TACO Marine Project Boat fundraiser myself, I have a better sense of appreciation for what he’s trying to do. It’s a really cool project.”

Another fan of Helsen’s fundraiser and someone with many friends and relatives diagnosed with Lymphoma is National Marine Manufacturers Association President Thom Dammrich, who’s known the sailor for several years because of his participation in the marine industry.

“I admire his adventurous spirit,” said Dammrich, who also has an endorsement published on Helsen’s website. “This is a life adventure and for a great cause. I wish them a safe voyage and return.”

With six months to go before he sets sail, Helsen said there’s still plenty to do on SKY to prep for departure, including installing new satellite equipment, rigging new electronics and conducting sea trials. He also hopes to recruit a few more sponsors to help fund the expenses while also raising awareness for the cause.

To donate to Helsen’s SV SKY 57 fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, visit svsky57.com and its donation page.

One hundred percent of every donation toward Helsen’s round-the-world fundraiser goes to the LLS, which is the largest nonprofit dedicated to curing blood cancers. Since 1949, LLS has donated more than $1.2 billion toward cancer research. The charity also provides patient support and has a grassroots network of more than 100,000 volunteers advocating at state and local levels for policy change and program funding.

In the coming months, we’ll be writing more about Helsen and following his journey around the globe. For more updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

TACO Spotlight: Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Uses His Love for Water to Help Veterans

While many across America will be outdoors this Memorial Day, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Tim Hoffmann will be in his truck driving more than 1,000 miles from Maine to Indiana to help veterans in need.

It all started in 2013 after Hoffmann retired from both his civilian and Army Reserve careers in Nursing Administration. As a lifelong fisherman and boater looking for ways to give back, he saw an opportunity for the boating and fishing industries to come together to help veterans.

“We could reach many deserving vets who had served in combat and were experiencing significant challenges and hardship on their return to civilian life,” said Hoffmann, who was drafted into the military in 1968 during the Vietnam War.

In 2014, Hoffmann and his daughter Ann launched Vets On The Water [VOTW], a Maine-based nonprofit dedicated to helping active duty, disabled veterans and Gold Star families experience and enjoy time on the water. Activities include fresh and saltwater fishing, sailing, cruising and ice fishing.

While Hoffmann would normally be on the water with veterans this Memorial Day, he instead is adding another boat to the VOTW program – a specially adapted SunChaser Geneva 22 Fish Deluxe pontoon by Smokercraft with a Yamaha Outboard engine, electronics from Raymarine and a trailer from BassPro.

On Sunday, May 27, Hoffmann and his daughter are departing Rockport, Maine for the Smokercraft headquarters in New Paris, Indiana – a 16-hour drive taking place over Sunday and Monday, Memorial Day. On Tuesday, Hoffmann said he plans to tour the facility and meet the entire Smokercraft team before heading back to Maine with the new boat in tow – arriving just in time to prep for another day with Vets On The Water.

Smokercraft is donating a specially adapted Sunchaser Geneva 22 Fish Deluxe pontoon. Stock photo courtesy of Smokercraft.

Phil Smoker, Smokercraft Vice President of Sales, said the pontoon is the second boat the family-owned company is donating to VOTW. He said the addition of the pontoon will provide veterans in wheelchairs an opportunity to participate because of the accessible boarding and ability to more easily maneuver around the deck.

“We love what he’s doing for our vets and we hope that the program only continues to grow,” said Smoker.

VOTW is entirely volunteer based. There’s no overhead costs and 100 percent of every donation, whether fishing or boating products, gas cards or meals, goes to veterans. Because of this, Hoffmann’s mantra is that the program belongs to all who give their time, equipment or services to the cause.

Hoffmann, second from the left in red, onboard the 18-foot specially adapted Smokercraft Freedom 180, which was also donated by the Indiana-based company for the program. For this boat, Suzuki donated the engine, Venture Trailers donated the boat trailer and Fulton donated trailer accessories. Photo courtesy of Tim Hoffmann.

Hoffmann also works with the VA Maine Health Care System in Togus, which identifies eligible clients, obtains physician orders for participation and provides transportation and VA staff on each watercraft during the weekly trips.

Weather permitting, Hoffmann and his team of volunteers conduct nearly 60 trips per year for an estimated 1,000 veterans.

Hoffmann with retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, who lost portions of both arms and legs from an IED while on active duty in Afghanistan. In Sept. 2013, Mills founded the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to benefit and assist combat-injured veterans. Read more about Mills at www.travismills.org. Photo courtesy of Tim Hoffmann.

Shortly after the program first launched, Hoffmann reached out to TACO for some aluminum rod holders. After speaking with Mike Kushner, TACO’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Hoffmann said he was surprised when a pair of brand new Grand Slam Outrigger Mounts, Aluminum Tele-Outrigger Poles and a pair of 4-rod Aluminum Rod Holders arrived at his house just five days later.

“I think we’re the only people in the country who are using outriggers for fishing mackerel, which is a very small fish,” said Hoffmann. “But it allows us to get another two or more lines in the water and not get tangled.”

VOTW also uses this 23-foot SeaCraft with a 3-foot long bracket and a Tohatsu 250 outboard engine. In this photo, Hoffmann rigged his TACO outriggers with multiple flags to honor veterans. Photo courtesy of Tim Hoffmann.

Hoffmann also connected with Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association [NMMA]. Together with the BoatUS Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association and the NMMA, Hoffmann is looking for ways to replicate the VOTW program throughout New England and potentially nationwide.

“What I really like about Tim’s effort is that it’s totally volunteer driven,” said Dammrich, who first learned of Hoffmann and the VOTW program two years ago. “He wants to find other volunteers like himself in other parts of the country who are willing to take this on, with the support of the boating industry, to get veterans on the water.”

Hoffmann said he is optimistic VOTW will continue to grow because of the many organizations and individuals who believe in the program.

“I had the idea, but the program truly belongs to the people who participate and support it,” said Hoffmann. “We create the opportunity for the vets, but the real opportunity is for people like Mike Kushner and others, the boaters and fishermen, who step up and take the vets out.”

Looking to the future, Hoffmann is hoping to network with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Holes, Mass. to plan offshore shark and bottom fishing excursions. Additionally, he said he has no plans of slowing down his work for veterans in Maine and the surrounding areas.

While the VOTW does not have an official Web site, Hoffmann encourages veterans and others who want to learn more to visit the organization’s Facebook page, “VETS on the WATER.”

In the coming days, we’ll be posting updates about Hoffmann’s road trip and Smokercraft visit to our TACO Marine Twitter and Facebook pages. Until then, thank you to all the amazing military men and women who have served our great nation. We wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day.