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##Photo by George Sass
Warrior Sailing at AYC
he Annapolis Yacht Club (AYC) was proud to host 21 veterans of the Basic Training Camp of the Warrior Sailing Program October 17-19. The camp focused on skill development of wounded, ill, and injured military service members in the sport of sailing. The specially-trained coaches introduced participants to basic sailboat handling skills and how to compete in sailboat racing. Their coaching methods and techniques are modified to accommodate cognitive and mental health challenges. Warrior Sailing (warriorsailing.org) brought specialized equipment to compensate for physical disabilities allowing sailors to participate on an equal basis with the able-bodied. They also provide resources to participants for continued involvement with the sport in their hometowns and how to advance in the sport. Several are from the Annapolis area and may find crew slots with local racers to continue to develop their skills. Jen French, Warrior Sailing Program founder, remarked, “It is always great to come back to Annapolis. With a strong sailing community and a military culture, it is a great fit for our program.” 54 December 2017 spinsheet.com
By Ward Anderson As AYC event chair I was pleased to spend many hours with our veterans. From the introduction of each coach to their three sailing buddies, I felt the eagerness of the sailors, and it built as I helped some put on the life jackets, many for the first time. Walking or rolling in their wheelchairs from the WNR tent, they approached the J/22s lined up side by side. It is not easy to position a seriously injured person on land, so crossing one rocking boat to the next, made boarding even more of a challenge. It wasn’t just the coaches maneuvering a soldier into the specially modified chair; it was the participants helping their new friends. They set out with confidence in their new challenge. This was in large part a reflection of the excellent coaches who have taught at these clinics in the past. In fact, many of the coaches are veterans who have suffered significant injuries.Talk about impressive: for the first morning launch the J/22s sailed out of the AYC basin in fluky winds with many of the warriors at the helm. No tow boats for these folks. The first two days developed skills in the new environment with basics such as “This is a gybe, so watch for the boom.” The last day brought the best wind allowing the
warriors to show their skills in morning practice starts and races. The highlight of the week was the afternoon poker run race with five marks set between the Spa Creek entrance, up the Severn River, Greenbury Point, and Horn Point. After a regulation start by the AYC race committee most boats were on the line for the gun and then the fleet split. The first two boats finished within 100 yards of each other but had traveled opposite paths. “Being on the water takes all your pain and worries away. The only things that matter are the telltales and the guys you are with,” says Army veteran Carlos Hernandez. Warrior Sailing Program is under the umbrella of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Sailing Foundation, and contributions are critical to continuing this important mission (warriorsailing.org/donate). They are careful with their expenses and ran these clinics with exceptional community support from The Eastport Yacht Club, Watermark Journey, Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs, the Annapolis Yacht Club Foundation, and photographer George Sass. Special thanks to VA Adaptive Sports Program, Happy Together, and Truckin’ for Troops.
Published on Nov 27, 2017