More than 20 volunteers from Chesil Sailability supported a two-day team selection trial for 70 wounded, injured and sick veterans and service personnel hoping to sail in the Invictus Games 2018 in Sydney, where sailing is to be introduced for the first time. The trials took place at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) at the end of March.
The volunteers from the group, which provides sailing opportunities for people with disabilities, brought two safety RIBs and their four Hansa 303 dinghies as well as their sailing expertise to add to the boats and volunteers from New Forest Sailability, the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre, the RYA and WPNSA itself.
The first day saw a strong northerly wind blowing across the harbour with choppy water for the two race courses - one for the faster Elliott 6 dinghies closer to the harbour entrance and one for the Hansa 303s closer to the marina entrance. The competitors were teamed up with an experienced volunteer skipper (from Chesil Sailability for the Hansas and from the British Keelboat Academy for the Elliotts) for safety.
Conditions were worse on the second day, so the event continued within Portland Marina, using just the Hansa 303s - keeping the Chesil volunteers very busy. This was, as volunteer Philip Hall explained: "More fun than the trials in the harbour with the competitors egging their buddies on from the nearby vantage points, and it was close racing all the way round.
"Hats off to the Invictus competitors for their courage and determination… in sailing conditions that many experienced sailors might choose to avoid. Good luck to all of them, it's a shame that they can't all represent the UK in October. We will follow their progress up to and at the games with great interest."
Trustee of Chesil Sailability Hugh DeIong said: "Brilliant teamwork, many thanks to everyone. I am so proud of our involvement, and at a personal level, I feel very privileged to have been part of it."
David Griffiths, chair of Chesil Sailability, added: "Some of the competitors said that they knew they were probably not going to get to Sydney, but after this experience, they wanted to find their local Sailability club so that they could continue to sail.
"This was so life-affirming, with such a good atmosphere between everyone, and it has given Chesil Sailability a flying start to the season. It has given a positive lift to our volunteers, who will doubtless pass that feeling on to our Sailability sailors this year."
Sailing is one of the 11 sports to feature in the Invictus Games which for 2018 will be held in Sydney from 20 - 27 October.
The Invictus Games is an international multi-sport event open to wounded, injured and sick (WIS) serving personnel and veterans set up by Prince Harry. The boat classes for the UK Team are the Elliot7 and the Hansa 303 and five sailors will be confirmed in May as part of the wider 72-strong UK team.
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