“If there’s anything that other people can do with two legs, I can do it with one.”
Where do you start with Bradley Pedrick?
Well you could start by mentioning that he won this year’s RYA OnBoard’s Panerai Challenger Trophy? Or that his mum and dad think sailing has changed his life? You could focus on the fact Brad has had to overcome more challenges in his first 11 years than most of us would ever think possible in our lifetimes.
Or you could start with the fact Bradley Pedrick is just an awesome, awesome kid.
The chat, the positivity, the kindness, the enthusiasm, they radiate from him as he speaks and in his actions. His instructors at Polkerris Beach in Cornwall, where he learned to sail with his school through OnBoard, describe him as “remarkable”. Five minutes with Bradley and you’d struggle to disagree.
When Brad was revealed as the Panerai Challenger Trophy winner at a ceremony at St Katherine’s Dock, London in June, his first instinct was to congratulate the other nominees. His mum, Cheryl, says what Bradley can’t; that he got quite emotional too and put his hand over his face in shock as his name was read out.
You ask him about what that day was like, and he chatters about macaroni cheese at an Italian restaurant, taking lots and lots of photos on the nominees’ tour of Panerai’s class yacht, Eilean, staying in a hotel and driving around for two hours looking for somewhere to park.
He tells how his Headteacher revealed to his school that he was going to London because he had been shortlisted, and how when teachers and pupils saw he had won in the local paper, asked “Are you the person who won £15,000!?”
Of course that prize money is split, with £5,000 to help Bradley progress his sailing ambitions. The rest will enable Polkerris to upskill their instructor team, and offer sponsored opportunities to youngsters from the schools they work with through the Roseland Youth Sailing Trust (more on that later) to attend local youth sailing club sessions and one-to-one sessions for those showing particular promise.
As a three-year-old, Bradley had his leg amputated below the knee due
to a rare condition; at seven, he needed kidney surgery and then,
shortly afterwards, he suffered serious burns in an accident. In addition, he has undergone revision surgeries on his leg, which will continue
until he is fully-grown.
So for him, ‘progressing his sailing ambitions’ means having kit and water access that make it easier for him go sailing more often.
With his prize-money, a special wetsuit is being custom made that will
be quicker for him to get on over his prosthetic leg – “It can take me five or 10 minutes at the moment” – plus boots to go with it. He will also
have one-to-one sessions at Polkerris starting in the summer holidays
to complement his weekly club sessions.
Brad admits when he first started sailing he was scared his leg would
fall off. It didn’t he is pleased to report. But nevertheless, to start with he was reluctant to wear it on the water and get it wet as it takes a long time to dry out and gets extremely heavy.
The downside of this was walking on the beach and launching the boats could be a challenge for him. Eventually his drive to get fully involved in all elements of the sessions saw the leg go back on as he accepted it getting wet. To overcome this once and for all, Bradley is currently having a waterproof leg made by the NHS.
Bradley says it makes him happy to know by winning the award he has helped Polkerris too because “they helped me.”
The role of the Roseland Sailing Trust
The Roseland Sailing Trust works to transforms young lives, including in some of Cornwall's most economically challenged areas, by connecting schools with sailing providers. You can read more about how the Trust works here - Life chance - how charities can connect schools with sailing.
One of those providers was Polkerris and one of those school’s was Bradley’s, Foxhole Learning Academy in St Austell, which is how, as a Year 5 pupil last year, he ended up doing something his mum admits they never, ever would have considered.
Because of his success, the Trust asked Bradley to say a few words at one of their fundraising events in July, while they have also invited him to take part in a coached regatta so he can start to learn more about racing, his next ambition.
As well as the physical challenges he has faced, Bradley has a range of social and emotional learning needs, including anger management. But sailing has taken his life in a different direction as a calmer and happier Bradley began to emerge.
“He’s always been quite a bubbly and outgoing boy,” reflects Cheryl. “But before sailing he had not been on the sea much, despite us living so close. Now it’s so lovely to see him confident out there on the waves, knowing that he knows he’s safe because he knows what to do. It’s made him more independent.
"I don’t think winning the award has really sunk in, so much is going to happen for him this summer and once he gets his wetsuit he has got something to look forward to every week.”
Bradley concludes: “I conquered my fears and what I love about sailing is helping other people to conquer theirs as well.”
That’s Bradley Pedrick; just an awesome, awesome kid.