War injury leads Billy to setting a rehab course
IT TOOK a war, a near death experience and chronic illness for North London lad Billy Golbourn to discover a love of the sea and sailing.
Golbourn is now the poster boy for a Mooloolaba Yacht Club bid to re-engage veterans in the community through the sport.
He was a 16-year-old looking for adventure when he joined the British Army and just 19 when he began his first fateful tour in Afghanistan.
Golbourn, whose main job was providing geographical support to the battle group, was on an overnight patrol that went terribly wrong.
The patrol was smashed by a snowstorm, temperatures plummeted to minus 22 and it was impossible to get helicopters in to pick them up. They finally made it back to base after a four-day slog which left Golbourn with pneumonia and a collapsed lung.
He succumbed to the effects of the ordeal which paralysed his arm and saw him come close to losing a hand.
Golbourn was flown back to the United Kingdom. He spent the next two years in and out of hospital and in and out of wheelchairs.
He was at the Headley Court Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey when his physiotherapist said he needed a break and signed him up for Cowes Week.
"I thought it was a farmers' convention,'' he laughed. "I ended up at Southampton where I was met by Toe in the Water - a UK sail program for servicemen.''
The first time he was on a yacht was in one of Europe's most prestigious races.
He came ashore after the first day and went to bed to find himself not dreaming of the horrors of his Afghan ordeal, but about the exhilaration of a day on the water.
It was the first respite he had felt from what had been a nightmare of an ordeal.
Two years ago he and his wife followed his parents who had moved to Australia six years earlier.
Golbourn took a job at Doyle Sails but ongoing health issues continued to dog him, putting him hospital every two months.
The Pain Clinic at Nambour Hospital has continued to ease his condition to the point that he and his wife now run a cleaning business.
He can now see a life outside the bubble of pain and post traumatic stress and it's one he wants other veterans to experience.
Mooloolaba Yacht Club next month will introduce Serve II Sail, an innovative sailing experience program for wounded veterans.
Using the club's four Elliott 6m keel boats, the pilot training program will start in the calm waters of Mooloolah River.
WHAT: Mooloolaba Yacht Club Serve II Sail program
PURPOSE: To give veteran service personal sailing training to help reintegration them back into community
WHERE: Mooloolah River off The Wharf
CONTACT: For further information, go to www.mooloolaba.yachting.org.au