Sailing, the oldest sporting event in the world, encourages a love for the open water and an opportunity to connect with nature. There is an indescribable rush that comes over you, a feeling of freedom and confidence when you master the skills needed to sail a boat. That was a universal experience for Veterans on teams Poseidon and Mercury, who were learning to sail in beautiful San Diego harbor yesterday.
"The independence to just do it on your own is an incredible feeling," says Veteran Claudia Perry. "Being blind, you don’t get to drive, so this was just awesome!"
The day was divided into two parts. Team Poseidon started out in 16-foot, two-man boats while Team Mercury set sail aboard the 78-foot Stars and Stripes, US11, a former America's Cup boat that was designed by world class skipper Dennis Conner. Later, the teams switched places. When crewing either boat, the skills required to steer by wind challenge both your brain and your body. It requires endurance, concentration and upper body strength. Easing the jib sheet or trimming the main are common terms in the sailing world that Clinic participants quickly became accustomed to. Clinic participants learned, that if things are going really well out on the open water, they were "in the groove."
"I felt the wind pushing and moving," said US Army Veteran Nathan Allan, who is vision-impaired. "I had a great instructor who really helped me. Being a fisherman, I love being on the water."
But sailing on the open water can have a different impact on every individual. For some it can be an exciting, liberating or challenging experience. For others, it’s serene and relaxing.
"It felt pretty good," said US Army Veteran James Chaney. "I was so relaxed I fell asleep for about 30 seconds. Twice!"
US Navy Veteran Alton Foreman also enjoyed the day on the water.
"It's a good feeling being out on the water," said Foreman. "Sailing is a lot like the Navy, great teamwork, which is what serving your country is all about."
By Jim Theres, Public Affairs Officer, Jackson, Mississippi VA Medical Center