Pointe-Claire Yacht Club hosts annual adaptive sailing regatta
When Colin Smith began starting to experience symptoms of muscular dystrophy in his mid-twenties, he thought his sailing days were behind him. Then, he discovered adaptive sailing.
“I felt the freedom that I always felt before, that I hadn’t felt for such a long time,” said Smith, who came up from Middlebury, Vt. to take part in the regatta.
This weekend, he is one of 22 athletes competing in the annual adaptive sailing regatta at the Pointe-Claire Yacht Club, organized by the Quebec Adaptive Sailing Association (AQVA).
The two-day event welcomes participants from across the continent, and allows athletes with a wide range of disabilities to compete in a single competition.
“We have people who just need a cane for helping with their balance right up to people who are paralyzed from the neck down,” said Paula Stone, AQVA program director and chairperson of the regatta.
“And they’re out there sailing on a boat that makes it possible to compete on a leveled playing field,” Stone said.
“It’s really important to me to be able to just leave my chair on the dock and get on the water and have just really equal competition with everybody,” said Calgary’s Sara Lambert.
Some, like Lambert, use electronic aids to help them manoeuvre their craft.
“I use a windlass which is a little winch and it pulls in the sails, and then I also use the auto-helm steering which has a little joystick,” Lambert told Global News.
Others, who have no use of their upper limbs, use the “sip-and-puff” system to navigate with their mouths.
“There are two straws: with the one straw you sip and you go to the right and you puff and you go to the left, and [with] the other straw, you sip and the sails come in and you puff and the sails go out,” Stone said.
“It’s amazing what these people, that otherwise are pretty much limited, can do out there on the water,” Smith said.
But it won’t be all smooth sailing this weekend. Competitors are in for a few challenges on Lake Saint-Louis.
“We have the issue of the current because we’re actually a river, rather than a lake,” Stone said. “And with the water level being so high this year, it’s actually increased the current.”
Conditions permitting, competitors will participate in a total of six races over the weekend.
Awards will be handed out on Sunday but, for many, the opportunity to compete in the sport they love is a victory in itself.
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