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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mobility Cup 2011

It has become a ritual for Kevin Glachan when a disabled sailor takes a maiden voyage at Burlington Sailing and Boating Club.
“I take a picture of the empty wheelchair on the dock and them in the boat.”
In a word, the images spell FREEDOM in ten-metre high letters.

Glachan, who has MS, is one of five sailors competing in the Rotary Mobility Cup Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 for the Burlington club.

BS&BC is co-host of the 21st event with Hamilton Royal Yacht Club. About 60 disabled athletes from five countries are competing in four categories from Hamilton docks.
That includes three quadriplegic sailors who use Canadian-conceived ‘sip-and-puff’ technology. These sailors use lung power and a tube to control their craft.

Glachan says the challenges of life on land melt away on the water, gone with the wind so to speak.  “You are in control out there.  I just love it.”  He finished well down the standings after the first day of racing but noted you can’t put a number on joy.

Ditto for Dr. Henry Pratt, 77. The former family physician was felled by a stroke in 2007 and sailing was the latest step in his recovery when he took it up a couple of years ago.
Pratt joked his Silver Fleet competition consists of young “pros” who sail year round and that his 24th and last placing after two races was not important.  “It’s about having fun – and not running into other boats.”  

Sailers preparing their boat
Chad Bower, Barrie Erskine and Lisa Harris also competed out of BS&BC, with Erskine ending the opening day in fourth spot of the Silver Fleet.  Bower, 30, said his first competitive race wasn’t fruitful in terms of placing, but another glorious day in the sun and wind of Burlington Bay.  “I can’t run anymore,” said Bower, who suffered a stroke following a brain tumor. “I do my running with my boat in the water.”

He and other sailors are building on the 20 previous Mobility Cups and helping part the waves for future competitors, pointed out said 2011 Mobility Cup co-chair and Rotarian Bob Wercholoz.   “Every Mobility Cup must produce a legacy and this Cup will leave floating docks,” he said. “After the competition some of the floating docks will be moved from the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club to the Burlington Sailing and Boating Club.”  He said those docks will be the key to further development of the Burlington club’s Able Sail program. That’s the case in Hamilton, too.

Mobility Cup Sailor
The $70,000 price tag for the docks was met through a $47,000 grant from the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion, significant fundraising by Burlington’s Rotary Clubs and other Rotary donations across the Golden Horseshoe which pushed the total beyond $70,000. 

Wercholoz said any profit made from the Mobility Cup would be divided equally between the two clubs for future development.
“It could be to supply more coach boats or sails or whatever is needed for the programs.”

He noted more resources are needed because sailing is arguably the fastest growing sport for disabled athletes.  

Wercholoz explained why it draws so many people to Able Sail programs.
“We had one new member who went out on the water for the first time and came back with this huge smile on his face. He said it was because when he looked back at shore he saw an empty wheelchair sitting on the dock. That’s why our theme is ‘Freedom and Possibility’.”

Paula Stone of Association Quebecoise de Voile Adaptee in Montreal, an occupational therapist who is supervising the docks at her ninth Mobility Cup, said that is a story repeated across the country.  “I remember one woman in our club who was very reluctant to go out on the water. When she came back for her second sail she had a new lifejacket.

“Someone said ‘nice lifejacket’. She said ‘it’s more than that. It’s a new life’.”
By John Kernaghan, Guest Blogger

John Kernaghan is a food and travel writer based in Oakville. He was a restaurant reviewer for The Hamilton Spectator from 2000 to 2010 and has written about food and travel for 30 years. Visit his Taste of Burlington Restaurant Review Blog. 

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