Setting sail in memory of late Leeds dad

CHALLENGE: Matthew Thomas will sail backwards for two hours in memory of his late father Eric.
CHALLENGE: Matthew Thomas will sail backwards for two hours in memory of his late father Eric.
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Matthew Thomas is preparing to set sail and raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK - a cause very close to his heart.

The 52-year-old has set himself the challenge of sailing backwards for two hours on his late father’s boat.

Matthew’s dad Eric taught him how to sail when he was aged just six in a boat that he had built himself.

What started out as a hobby turned into a lifelong passion for Eric and Matthew, who is the Chief Instructor at Otley Sailing Club.

Sadly, Eric was diagnosed with dementia and following a five-year battle with the devastating condition, he died aged 84.

Now in memory of his father Matthew is preparing for his sailing fundraiser.

“Every time I hoist a sail, I remember my dad,” said father-of-two Matthew.

“This is why I decided to challenge myself to sail backwards, as a way of highlighting what happens when somebody develops dementia.

“It’s like their mind is working backwards.

“It means a lot to be able to do this in the boat that my dad built.”

What makes the challenge even more poignant is that Matthew’s mum Margaret is now living with Alzheimer’s.

Matthew added: “I didn’t know anything about dementia before my dad was diagnosed, but what I experienced was harrowing.

“It was horrible to see someone I looked up to, who picked me up when I fell and who taught me so much, having to be cared for like a small child in the end.”

Matthew, a production engineer, will be sailing around a 140-metre course at Otley Sailing Club on Saturday, August 26. .

To donate to Matthew’s cause, visit

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