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Out of the classroom and on to the sea

Out of the classroom and on to the sea

August 26, 2015

A headteacher has praised a member of staff who has left her school to pursue a ‘noble adventure’ for charity – a teacher who told us her motto is: ‘Life is short. Play hard.’

Northolt High teacher Katrina Boxall, 46, and her partner Andy Kerrison, 48, who is also a teacher, have left their posts. They are taking on the challenge of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, which proffers the possibility of extreme weather, rough seas and the threat of pirates. The couple, from Ealing, are raising money for the Motor Neurone Association, in memory of their friend Clare Allen who died of the disease in 2013 and her husband Jon DeVries who died just 18 months earlier of cancer.

‘Not for the faint hearted’

“We will be in a tight, racing yacht filled with amateurs and one professional skipper. It is not for the faint hearted,” said Katrina on the pair’s donations page online. “This is no smooth cruise but a challenging, difficult, exhausting venture where we will experience all that the sea has to throw at us.”

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Pupils and fellow staff have helped to raise donations, and Northolt High’s headteacher Gloria Lowe said: “Katrina has chosen to leave a school she loves, and has made a huge impact in, to pursue a lifelong dream for a wonderful cause. The Northolt High School community wishes her all the very best in this noble adventure.”

How it all began

Katrina told Around Ealing why they made the decision to take part in the race: “We decided to do the race in August 2013 having spent the summer in New Zealand. We had gone there at the end of the school summer term to see Clare but we were just too late, and she had died. It brought home now brief life is and how precious. We had seen her at Christmas and the previous summer but it was awful, nonetheless.

“Andy signed up for the race and I made the decision to join when I was watching Andy do it. It was a spur of the moment decision but because Andy and I have always adventures together, I did not want to miss out on something he was doing. It was set against the background of missing out on seeing Clare, too.

“Clare and Jon were incredibly important to us. We met them as a new couple in the early 1990s and they showed us a less conventional partnership than we had seen in our lives before: They were independent of each other and spent extended periods apart while Jon did expeditions. They were living in a garage at the time while they built a magnificent home in Wellington. We would sit in the garage and watch movies on a Friday night eating fish and chips from newspaper. We travelled with them, climbed with them and, later, when they bought a yacht we sailed a bit. They intended to sail around the word but never did.”

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Looking forward – and back

The race embarks on Sunday (30 August) from St Katherine’s Dock in London. It is a 40,000-mile contest across eight different ‘legs’. Andy is taking part in the full race, which could take up to 11 months to complete, while Katrina is part of a crew for the first leg across the Atlantic. Once she has completed her part in the competition, she will have a few months of waiting for Andy to return.

“During the intervening time I will be in New Zealand helping my extended family deal with some health issues,” said Katrina. “It will be an anxious wait but it is a dream for Andy and I feel good that I am the sort of partner who can set him free for a time to fulfil that dream.”

Through the donation website Just Giving, Katrina and Andy have already raised more than £2,000. You can still donate.

Katrina said she will miss the school’s pupils and staff. Andy was also once a teacher at Northolt High but moved to Notting Hill and Ealing High.

“Northolt has been everything to me for the last decade,” said Katrina. “But the chapter has drawn to a close and, as a school, we have become a good high school under Gloria Lowe’s leadership. This is what we are and my message to the students is to be proud of themselves and their school and to remember that if you make plans and make choices you can be whoever you want to be and do what you set out to do. Life is short, play hard.

“Andy’s students and colleagues have been amazingly supportive of him, as well. In one charity week they raised over £500. He is very grateful. Many of his students now say they want to take on the challenge when they are adults, too.”