Granny Jen gets on board the Heaven Can Wait spirit

Marie and David Rowe sitting on Granny Jen. The signwriting is in Jeanette Rowe’s handwriting, while the butterfly is the logo of the Lupus Association, of which she was president for a number of years.
Mark Scott
b>Leading the 2011 Heaven Can Wait 'virtual yacht race' for sponsorship is Gosford boat Granny Jen, with the team already close to the $2000 mark.

The Heaven Can Wait charity yacht race, which will take place on Lake Macquarie on October 1-2, 2011, raises funds for the Cancer Council NSW for men's cancer research and support programs.

The story behind Granny Jen owner David Rowe and family's fundraising campaign is heart-warming and touching – and very true to the Heaven Can Wait spirit.

Granny Jen is named for David's mother Jeanette Rowe, who passed away at the age of 75 two years ago from renal failure, as a result of the medications she had to take during her life-long battles with some debilitating illnesses and medical conditions.

Jeanette was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was only 28, and over the course of the next forty years, had over 16 orthopaedic operations, including numerous joint replacements.

Jeanette had been a registered nurse at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, as well as spending many years as a district nurse, and later in her life undertook a social welfare course, to allow her to better help and support other people dealing with serious health issues.

For a number of years she was president of the Lupus Association of NSW – and in fact Granny Jen has a butterfly logo painted on her stern, and on her spinnaker – a connection with the Lupus Association which also has a butterfly as its logo.

'Despite her own serious health issues, my mother really supported a lot of people going through health battles, both in NSW and around Australia,' said David.

'Lupus in particular can be a very debilitating disease, which has no cure and has to be managed, and she helped and counselled a lot of people.

'She really was an amazing person; she never slowed down nor dwelled on her own ailments and was always helping other people,' he said.

'There were even people she'd never met, but she'd talk to them over the phone about their health issues and problems, and strike up real friendships with them.'

David's son Peter was only four when Jeanette died, and the family decided to name their new boat – a Hanse 375 – after his grandmother.

'We thought it was a really nice way to keep her spirit alive within the family and our friends,' he said.

Granny Jen under sail on Brisbane Water, with her new spinnaker, complete with butterfly logo, the logo of the Lupus Association, of which Jeanette Rowe was president for a number of years.
Mark Scott


In fact David has gone to great lengths in maintaining a connection with the past. The boat's name is actually in Jeanette's handwriting from a Christmas card she gave young Peter, and the boat's sail number 511 is the same one that David's father Bill raced under on his yacht Cygnet some 35 years ago at RPAYC on Pittwater.

'Since we started our Heaven Can Wait fundraising campaign, we've had a really good response. We're sending out more emails to friends and family, as it's a cause close to our heart, and one that affects all of us in some way.

'Both Mum and my sister had battles with breast cancer, and our nephew is currently doing a great job of overcoming his struggle with adrenocortical carcinoma.

'And I know Mum would be delighted to be lending her name to a great cause like this,' said David. 'We expect to hit our target ($5000) and then some.'

'The crew on Granny Jen are all from Gosford Sailing Club, and while they each own their own yachts and are very experienced in both inshore and offshore racing, they have been intrigued by the introduction of the first Hanse into the Brisbane Water fleet and are keen to see what she can do.

'Together we make a very competitive entry, and if our performance is anything like our charge in the 'virtual yacht race' then we'll be a force to be reckoned with,' he said.

Any Sail-world.com readers who'd like to support Granny Jen's 2011 campaign can make donations via her EveryDayHero page at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/granny_jen_