Sailing challenge for Multiple Sclerosis supported by Radio Holland Belgium, the story of Ruben Donné

Two years ago I began the challenge of living one of my dreams: Sailing Challenge for Multiple Sclerosis (SC4MS). The challenge entailed sailing solo across the Atlantic Ocean from Nieuwpoort, Belgium to Cape Town, South Africa. Why Cape Town? This city was fortunately enough my home at the age of twelve for a period of three years. My mission? To put Multiple Sclerosis on the map and raise money for this as yet incurable disease. My father has MS.

I started by drafting a “To Do” list of most important requirements. At the top of that list: ‘communication’! Sailing solo across the Atlantic Ocean covering 15.000km on board a 6.5 meter boat i.e. not much longer than a bath tub with pretty much the same comfort is not without risk. To be able to reach Cape Town I knew I would have to flirt amongst others with the roaring forties (latitude 40 degrees south), known for its vivid storms and mountainous seas.

Communication an important safety & success factor

Communication was thus not only important to keep in touch with my family. It would also be vital to receive detailed weather forecasts. In other words, reliable communication would be an important safety and success factor. Finding the right communication partner was critically important. From my experience as a sailor and navigating officer in the merchant navy, Radio Holland was an obvious choice and thus it was more than logical to knock on their door.

I remember vividly my first meeting with Radio Holland introducing SC4MS. Welcomed by Kevin Michielsen and Eddy Dhondt, I told them of my plan. There are but a few companies which agreed to participate from the very beginning – and this without me even having a boat! Radio Holland Belgium (RHBE) was one of those very companies. They proved to be keen to find and deliver the most appropriate communication solution.

A toy of the sea

A few months later I secured my Mini 6.50 boat. Again I knocked at RHBE’s door and immediately received great news that they had stepped up efforts to secure an Iridium Open Port solution. We discussed all the various options and decided, for my particular situation, that this type of equipment would be the most suitable for my needs. Due to the fact that my sailing boat looking more like a dinghy, would be a toy of the sea, an installation without any moving parts would be critical to guarantee good communication, at any location and time during my double Atlantic crossing (via Brazil).

In July 2016 I received relieving news that Radio Holland had secured the required Iridium Open Port (IOP). Fortunately this news was sent via email otherwise the person would probably suffer from permanent ear damage due to my euphoric reaction. By that time, my family already mentioned that without proper communication SC4MS would be a no go!

Today, 29th of December 2016, after 86 days underway only four days from arriving in Cape Town, I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate Radio Holland for their 100th birthday! But even more importantly applaud them for their professional and enthusiastic support throughout this project and campaign. No matter the location or weather conditions, not once did my communication equipment fail. Reliability is everything.

Comforting to rely on RH’s solution to reach home

Sometimes as much as two thousand kilometres away from the nearest land it was comforting to know I could rely on their solution to reach home or to receive the vital latest weather forecasts. Without doubt, this reliable communication has played a huge role in my arriving in Cape Town safely.

Thank you Radio Holland Belgium!

(On 3rd January 2017, after 90 days, Ruben arrived in Cape Town.)

Always there. Everywhere.