The healing power of sailing
One of the greatest joys of sailing is its healing power, its ability to nourish the body and soul. There’s something so soothing about a salty breeze caressing your face and the quietness of the water around you…the feel of control when you’re easing out or trimming the sails…and the way the tiller feels in your hands. Gliding through silky glass waterways, time is not measured by crazy schedules and pressing deadlines, but instead by the rise and fall of each passing crest. You are living in the here and now and enjoying life to the fullest. All feels right with the world.
This may be a routine experience to most sailors, but for some (the wheelchair bound and the terminally ill, for example), the chance to enjoy these simple sailing pleasures are nothing short of life changing.
Leave Your Disabilities at the Door
“I thought sailing was part of my past, something I could no longer do as a result of muscular dystrophy. This program has enabled me to sail again and experience feelings I hadn’t felt for a very long time—feelings like empowerment and freedom. I have learned that you can be blind and still sail as Urban, the founder of the program does, or have a prosthetic leg as Kevin, my sailing companion does. I learned that I could leave my disabilities at the dock, sail in a seven-boat regatta and win!”
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 desires to sail a boat themselves, they purchased a Cal 20 sailboat and invited others, with and without disabilities, to learn how to sail with them.
Thus, Challenged America was born with the goal of introducing adaptive sailing as a new life experience to improve health, build self-confidence, develop new skills and abilities and stimulate independence.
Fast forward to 2012, and Challenged America’s fleet has grown to over a dozen boats (the number varies from month to month, depending on donations and sales of program boats). Today, Challenged America also includes racing and not only attracts the disabled and their loved ones, but also professionals in sports therapy and recreational rehabilitation, sailing instructors, yacht designers, educators, researchers, innovators, engineers and adaptive technology developers from around the world. Best of all, thousands with disabilities, both physical and psychological, have enjoyed a true, often first-time sailing experience with the program.