July 30, 2016 4:55 pm
Updated: July 30, 2016 7:48 pm

Adaptive sailing athletes unite to compete in Pointe-Claire

WATCH ABOVE: Local sailors tested their skills against sailors from all over North America in the 16th edition of the Quebec Cup. It is the largest adapted sailing regatta in Eastern Canada, Felicia Parrillo reports.

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POINTE-CLAIRE – Dave Whalen used to be a skier. That is until 35 years ago when an accident left him without the use of his arms and legs.

Now a quadriplegic, he’s discovered a love for a new sport.

“Sailing is really a wonderful thing to me because it’s so accessible, to be able to get into the boat and near the water,” he said. “It almost feels like skiing in a way because the waves, they’re almost like moguls and being up and down in the boat with the wind – it’s really exciting and a lot of fun.”

To participate in that excitement, Whalen traveled from New York to the Pointe-Claire Yacht Club, where he joined sailors from all over North America, who have a variety of disabilities, to compete in the Quebec Cup.

“They’re sailing in specially designed boats, called the Martin 16s – boats that can’t tip over and are all set up for a person to sail independently,” said regatta chairperson, Paula Stone.

A typical Martin 16 comes equipped with a 330-pound keel in the middle of it, making it impossible for it to capsize.

A Martin 16 at the Pointe-Claire Yacht Club on July 30, 2016.

Francois Joly/Global News

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The sailor then controls  the boat with a tiller – something similar to a joystick.

Other sailors, like Whalen, use a sip and puff sailboat.

All of the functions, including setting the sails, are controlled by the sailor’s breath.

“So one of the straws, will be set up to do the steering, so if you sip you’re going to go to starboard and if you puff, you go to port, which is like right and left,” Stone said. “And the other straw is set up that if you sip, the sails come in and if you puff, sails go out.”

Sara Cooper, originally from Calgary, also participates in the Quebec Cup.

She has muscular dystrophy (MD), but that hasn’t stopped her from coming down to Pointe-Claire every year, for the last few years, to take part in the event.

“I like the freedom that it affords us,” Cooper said. “Just having the opportunity to get out in these really cool boats and being able to just do things that you’re restricted with on shore.”

Most of the sailors competing in the Quebec Cup will also be participating in the Mobility Cup – Canada’s International regatta for sailors with disabilities.

That will be taking place for an entire week, beginning August 29, at the Pointe-Claire Yacht Club.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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