Nine Brits will be flying the Union Jack as sailing makes its Invictus Games debut in Sydney this weekend. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, the competition will be comprised of both team and individual events as racing commences on Sunday 21 October.
Spencer Bull, the Team UK Vice-Captain, will be competing in the Hansa 303 one-person event, while two teams of four Britons will be racing in the Elliott 7 keelboat class.
Poppy Pawsey, John Shepard, Sadie Melling and Andrew ‘Pav’ Taylor make up one crew with Daniel Majid, Lavinia Goddard, Dave Watts, Debbie Godfrey teaming up in the other UK boat.
For the British sailors, the Invictus journey has been about far more than sailing. 'Pav' Taylor, who sustained a serious back injury in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in 2008, has found sailing delivers a relatively pain-free physical activity that satisfies his competitive appetite.
He said: “There’s a mental wellbeing aspect to being on the water. You don't think about other things when you're sailing, you’re concentrating on what you're doing, looking at where the next gust of wind is coming from, trimming the sails, so it really empties your head of everything else.”
For former Royal Marines bandswoman Poppy Pawsey, Invictus has been a real confidence boost as she’s rekindled her love for sailing.
She commented: “I've got chronic pain in my back and hips, which can be quite frustrating. If you'd seen me a year ago it wasn't me, I’d lost all of my confidence. Now I'm going to be helming a crew on Sydney Harbour. Does it get much better than that?”
RYA Sailability have been working with the partnership delivering Team UK, made up of Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion and the Ministry of Defence to select the team of sailors to compete in the racing at Sydney Harbour. The programme, headed up by RYA disability racing coach, Brett Cokayne, has been driven by the use of sport and activity to support recovery and rehabilitation.
Brett, who will be accompanying the team to Sydney commented: “Team UK is made up of nine incredible individuals from a variety of sailing backgrounds. From dinghy racing to expedition sailing to those who have barely sailed before, the last six months have been a real ‘crash course’ in learning to sail and race the games boats.
He added: “We can’t wait to get out to Sydney and see what these now fierce competitors can do out on the water.”
Each race in Sydney will consist of up to three laps of a windward/leeward course with an anticipated race time of 30 minutes. Following the qualifying stage, the six Elliott 7 boats and the five Hansa 303 with the lowest cumulative points total will advance to the medal race for their respective boat class.
To follow the action at the games visit the event website at www.invictusgames2018.org. To find out how you can get involved in disabled sailing throughout the UK visit www.rya.org.uk/go/sailability