May 4, 2022
So, I’m at Mobility Cup in Nepean, across the river from Ottawa. I’ve participated in Mobility Cup as a volunteer and companion sailor for over fifteen years.
I don’t do it because of some sense of civic duty. I do this because I love it. I meet wonderful people and the outpouring of love and respect is overwhelming. If, as a sailor, you’ve never been to the Mobility Cup, you should go. You’ll quickly discover what I’m talking about. As we sail out, I often look back at a dock full of empty wheelchairs and it brings me a sense of joy and pride like nothing else I’ve experienced in my rather extensive sailing career.
Twelve years ago, I volunteered at Mobility Cup at Ashbridges Bay YC in Toronto. That’s where I met my buddy, Kevin. We are besties to this day and always will be. We have had great times on the water, won a bunch of races and been admonished on more than one occasion for having controlled substances on board. Weed happens. We would often rip down to Able Sail Toronto at National YC. I ride behind Kevin’s chair on my rollerblades making me the only person in Toronto legally allowed to rollerblade on a subway. Yeah baby, that’s how we roll.
Kai is an amazing young man. He lives with downs syndrome and is an athlete. He competes in multiple sports, but his favourite is sailing. During the first four days of the regatta, he had trouble getting along with his companion sailors. He had a few meltdowns and was usually a leg behind the fleet in every race. He was not having a good regatta. I would see him drop his life jacket despondently on the dock after every race and walk away. I asked if I could sail with Kai but was told by the people running the regatta that it wouldn’t go well.
Thanks mucho – Kai
On the last day of the regatta, I was paired with Kai. As we sailed out Kai said, “Feel how warm the water is D.” I said, “It’s Pee, Kai…Don’t splash me with pee!” Well, we both had a good laugh and chilled out. As the start approached, I realized that this kid knew how to drive a boat. We nailed the start. As companions, we’re not supposed to coach. Yea, right. I pointed out a huge lift on the right and Kai headed for it. That put us out front and we never looked back. First out of twenty boats. Kai was pretty happy.
The second race, we went deep right again and again, and we crushed it. Late in the race, the tiller busted off and I had to steer us to the finish holding the cables in the back. Still, Kai called all the tacks and tactics. We got our second bullet of the day. Kai was ecstatic. He raised his arms as we crossed the finish line as I patted his shoulder and told him what a great job he did. Two bullets in a twenty-boat fleet? Yea not bad. Later that day, my buddy Kevin congratulated Kai. Kai ran across the parking lot, jumped on Kevin’s lap and hugged him.
If you’ve never been to Mobility Cup, you should go. We have three volunteers for every sailor. If your club doesn’t have an adaptive sailing program, consider starting one. The next Mobility Cup will be in Sydney, Nova Scotia starting August 29th to September 2nd, and I’ll be there. I hope you will be there too. You can sign up as a volunteer on the Mobility Cup web site. Sailing isn’t a sport, it’s a lifestyle. And nothing feels better than putting something back into it. I’m looking forward to seeing you in Cape Breton.
D. Danger, aka Richard ‘Dee’ Mitchele, is a foredeck-based troublemaker, lover of 8-Metres, and raconteur. He has sailed extensively in Toronto, Bedford NS and anywhere there are gybes to be done or shenanigans to be conducted. He is currently hiding and rebuilding a sports boat/science project in Spain.