Seventeen crews of sailors with disabilities sailed specially adapted Ideal 18 sailboats in the 7th annual Robie Pierce One-Design Regatta at American Yacht Club the weekend of May 29-31.
By Jan Hodnett
Seventeen crews of sailors with disabilities sailed specially adapted Ideal 18 sailboats in the 7th annual Robie Pierce One-Design Regatta at American Yacht Club the weekend of May 29-31. Hosted jointly by American and Larchmont Yacht Club, the Robie continues to be the only major adaptive regatta on western Long Island Sound. Each boat has a two-person crew of disabled sailors with one able-bodied (AB) sailor on board who can help by performing physical tasks. Siobhan Reilly and Bill Sandberg of AYC, and Buttons Padin of Larchmont Yacht have jointly chaired the Robie all seven years.
Among the participants this year were Paralympians, two Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, and Warrior Sailors. Several boats from the Burke Rehabilitation Center’s Adaptive Sports Program competed, including crew who have never sailed before. Catherine Evins, a Burke outpatient, sailed for the first time with skipper Tracy Schmitt from Toronto. In the second race, they finished second and Cathy was beside herself with joy. After meeting 2012 Paralympic Silver Medalist Jen French (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Betsy Alison, U.S. Sailing’s Paralympic Coach, Evins said, “Today was my day of miracles!”
This year, Duane Farrar (Watertown, Mass.) and Amy Bower (Falmouth, Mass.), both of whom are blind, sailed with Sol Marini as their sighted guide, and won with a final point total of 18 points after ten races. Striving to compete in the next Blind Sailing World Championship in Chicago, they beat out last year’s winning combination of Mike Hersey (Hyannis, Mass.) and 2008 Paralympic Gold Medalist Maureen McKinnon (Marblehead, Mass.) with Hersey’s son Matt repeating his role as AB. Rounding out the top three spots were Craig Wilson (Holden, Mass.) and Charles McClure (Brookline, Mass.), with Paula Schaefer (AYC), and Roger King sharing the AB duties.
Paula Schaefer said, “I had one of the best days on the water I’ve had in a long time. The company was wonderful, and the competition was keen. We lost by inches in one race, and finished second for the day. This is the third year I have had the privilege to sail with Robie Pierce competitors and it has been a great experience every time.”
Wilson, skipper of the third-place finisher, credited the Robie for teaching him how to sail and had high praise for AYC members and staff. “They take care of us nicely and all the things they and the sponsors provide for us are wonderful. Without that help and support, you can’t have a regatta.”
In his welcoming address, AYC Commodore Peter Duncan said how pleased he and the Flag Officers and Trustees were to have the disabled sailors there for the regatta. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your coming and sailing with us. As my mother always said, ‘Even a bad day of sailing is one of the best days of your life.’”
Heineken USA has been the Robie’s lead sponsor since its inception, and for the past four years the Keurig Green Mountain community outreach foundation has supported the event. Subaru was also a repeat sponsor this year, as were Burke Rehabilitation Center, Magnum Bars, Gill North America, and the Sailing Foundation of New York.
To see a video of the regatta with interviews, go to www.ryetv.org.