Set fair for Bricket Wood sailor Sophie and her dad

PUBLISHED: 09:25 07 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:19 06 May 2010

Sophie and Christopher took second place at the European Championships

Sophie and Christopher took second place at the European Championships

SCHOOLGIRL Sophie Dingwall s success in a European sailing championship is particularly poignant for her dad Brett. For three years ago he didn t think he would see his daughter grow up, let alone collect a medal on the podium after competing in the boat

Brett Dingwall built the boat when he was just 15

SCHOOLGIRL Sophie Dingwall's success in a European sailing championship is particularly poignant for her dad Brett.

For three years ago he didn't think he would see his daughter grow up, let alone collect a medal on the podium after competing in the boat he had built as a boy which the family managed to buy back on the auction site eBay.

Even though Brett was battling leukaemia at the time and his family fighting a high-profile campaign to get him treated with the unlicensed drug Mylotarg, he still managed to re-deck and refurbish the boat for Sophie to use.

So it was a particularly proud moment for Brett and wife Janis, of Drop Lane, Bricket Wood, when they watched 16-year-old Sophie take second place in the European Championships in Spain.

Janis said this week: "It was wonderful and we are really proud. Sophie is on a real high at the moment especially as she competed in his old boat."

Brett, a boat builder by profession until he was struck down with leukaemia in 2006, had built the wooden cadet class boat in his mother's sitting room at their home in Aldenham Avenue, Radlett, when he was 15.

He sold it when he was 17 and lost track of it for years but he asked friends in the sailing world to keep an eye open for it as all boats are registered and have their own specific number.

Out of the blue he had a phone call to say that the boat was for sale on eBay and even though he was ill by that time, he bought it back and restored it for his daughter to use.

Janis said: "It took a long time to do but he really wanted to do it because he did not know if he was going to live to see Sophie sail in it."

In 2006, when Brett was 56, the prognosis was not good. He had been admitted to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Surrey but they were unable to get the leukaemia into remission. The last hope was Mylotarg but the West Herts Primary Care Trust (PCT) was initially not prepared to pay for the drug which was unlicensed.

After a campaign in which both St Albans MP Anne Main and the Herts Advertiser became involved, the PCT agreed that there was sufficient clinical evidence to show that Brett would respond to it.

That proved to be the case and once the leukaemia was in remission, Brett was able to have a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

Sophie, a pupil at Parmiters School in Garston, and her crew, 14-year-old Christopher Sycamore from Burnham-on-Crouch, were driven down to Almeria in Spain by Brett and Janis and found themselves up against 112 other competitors in the cadet class.

But it was all worthwhile when the Union Jack was hoisted and the national anthem played to mark Sophie and Christopher's success against boats from all over Europe.

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