Challenged America’s Story


In 1978 two disabled veterans in wheelchairs were at San Diego’s Mission Bay watching others sail, and said:  “That looks like fun…and all of them are sitting too.  Now, that’s something we should be able to do.”

Unable to find a sailing program or school able to accommodate their needs and desire to sail a boat themselves, other than provide a “ride” in a sailboat, they purchased a Cal 20 sailboat, and invited others, with and without disabilities, to learn how to sail with them.

Soon racing became a focus, and the grass-roots effort moved to San Diego’s Big Bay, graduating to a Santana 27 racing sailboat, and then followed by a Beneteau First Class 10 (34 foot) racer.  The sailing program by and for the disabled developed and grew, with sailors of all ages, having various types of disabilities, most experiencing bay and offshore sailing and racing for the first time.

Today, Challenged America attracts the disabled and their loved ones, professionals in sports therapy and recreational rehabilitation, sailing instructors, yacht designers, educators, researchers, innovators, engineers and adaptive technology developers from around the world to San Diego to participate or  observe the Challenged America program.  Hundreds visit and sail with Challenged America each year.


  • 1978:  Adaptive sailing program launched.
  • 1990:  The name “Challenged America” coined when, upon finishing the San Diego to Ensenada (Mexico) International Yacht Race, the crew decided on structuring the endeavor as a program, and created its name.
  • Arizona State University Art Department created the Challenged America logo as a class project.
  • 1991:   The beginning of the (1992) America’s Cup campaign in San Diego, and Challenged America sailors were invited to crew (with the Russian America’s Cup team) aboard America II, a 12-meter yacht.   Although the sailors from Russia were unable to compete in the 1992 America’s Cup, Challenged America sailors had the opportunity to experience first-hand, as crew members, the challenges of sailing and racing in an America’s Cup (AC) yacht.
  • The first goal of Challenged America was established: To race in the Transpac Yacht Race, from Los Angeles to Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • 1992:  Challenged America becomes a therapeutic program under the charitable, 501(c)(3) Disabled Businesspersons Association (DBA).
  • “Local Heroes:  Challenged America,” a film documentary on sailors with disabilities crewing on an America’s Cup 12-meter yacht was filmed by Cox Television, funding provided by the City of San Diego.  The film won the 1991 National Arts & Entertainment (A&E) Network’s “CityVideo” Award, and nominated for an Emmy.
  • 1995:   San Diego — John Bertrand, skipper of Australia II, hosts a fundraiser for Challenged America as his America’s Cup compound in San Diego.
  • 1999:  Small boats (the Martin 16 sailboat) were added to the Challenged America therapeutic program.
  • 2002:  B’Quest was the name given to the Tripp 40 racing sailboat donated to the Challenged America program, by Brian and Suzanne Hull of Coronado, California.
  • 2003:  Goal reached…Challenged America sailors with disabilities raced B’Quest in the Transpac Yacht Race to Hawaii (2,225 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean).
  • City of San Diego designates June 30, 2003, as “Challenged America Day.”
  • 2005:  Team Challenged America competes, once again, in the Transpac Yacht Race.
  • 2007:  A proven race-winning Nelson/Marek Custom 43 sailboat (renamed B’Quest II) was donated by Brian and Suzanne Hull, and a race winning Kiwi 35 (renamed Lift Off) was donated by Alan Cohen of Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • 2008:  Department of Veterans Affairs’ first National Summer Sports Clinic for recently injured veterans in San Diego, Challenged America National Sponsor.
  • 2009:  Challenged America expands its fleet of (all donated) small and large vessels, and opens a new office location, alongside its boat slips, at Shelter Cove Marina, Shelter Island, San Diego, California.