Shipping’s dragon boat races to raise money to help fight childhood leukaemia return to London in a fortnight after a two-year break, with hopes of it being a record-breaking event.

The OSCAR dragon boat races in Docklands, London, have not been held since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year, organiser Phil Parry said there will be about 31 sponsored shipping industry teams once again, paddling frantically on 15 September to raise cash for research at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for Children in London.

“Covid could have been an excuse to say ‘we’re done’,” said Parry, founder and chairman of maritime recruitment firm Spinnaker Global, whose son Oscar came close to death from leukaemia when young.

Since the OSCAR charity was set up about 10 years ago — with the support of many industry friends and companies, including TradeWinds — it has raised about £2m.

“Staying engaged with the medics and researchers at GOSH makes you realise that there is just so much more to do,” Parry said.

This year’s race hopes to beat the previous record raised from one event of £155,000 and could approach £200,000 to help fund a new three-year fellowship to study improvements in a key treatment.

CAR-T therapy involves programming the body’s T-cells to target specific illnesses, in this case, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. While it works in many cases, around half the children relapse. The new research will investigate how to solve that problem.

Now healthy and aged 23, Oscar works as a chef providing fine dining to London’s livery halls, although on the morning we spoke, his father said Oscar was probably hung over after a scout and guide summer camp.

It was not only Parry’s charity work that was upended by the pandemic. His recruitment business has also faced wild swings in demand that show no sign of abating.

Huge demand for relatively junior operating staff across shipping and trading companies has given recruits vast choice and leverage. So much so that interviewees sometimes do not attend interviews as they have already been snapped up.

Middle-ranking staff are also in demand, with a new appetite and budget from companies to invest in training and development of staff to help retention. The LNG sector is particularly hot for all positions.

Recruitment for C-suite and board-level posts has never been so busy, with new titles of chief information officer (formerly head of IT) and chief people officer (formerly human resources director) especially in demand.

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