When the wind blows, it blows like Hellas
— Sending sailing team off to games
By Paul Gowan
If all Canadians cupped their hands over their mouths and blew as hard
as they could in the direction of Athens, Brian MacDonald and his
teammates might appreciate it come September.
MacDonald, from West Vancouver, is part of a three-man Canadian crew set
to sail during the 2004 Paralympic Games September 18 - 24. The other
members of the team are Paul Tingley and Brian Mackie, both from
Victoria. Together, they sail in the 23-foot "Sonar" class. At
the Sydney Games in 2000 they won an Olympic bronze medal.
The team qualified for the Athens games at two regattas in Florida in
January and March (the Miami Olympic Class Regatta, and the Disabled
North American Championships), beating other Canadian teams handily,
They also trained in San Francisco for two weeks in 20-knot winds, so
"we're pretty ready," he says. "We expect big wind in
Greece in September when we get there."
"If the wind blows, we are favoured to win the whole thing,"
he says. Their boat works well in strong wind, plus the team members are
bigger guys. The bigger the team, the better the odds in heavy wind.
"The training session in San Francisco and the big wind is really
going to pay off. We broke a bunch of stuff on the boat, but thank God
we broke it in San Francisco and not in Greece. It should pay real good
"If the wind blows, we'll definitely be disappointed without a
The other favourites are Germany, Holland and Israel. On the other hand,
"If the wind's light, it's a toss up. Any one of eight countries
can win," MacDonald says.
In addition to the sailors, the team comprises two coaches: boat-maker
and sailor Don Martin and David Williams - both of Vancouver. Martin has
just been commissioned to work with the USA team for the next America's
Cup. He also built the Sonar in which the team races.
They travel to Greece September 4 and their first race will be September
18. The action continues until the finale on the 24th.
MacDonald, 60, started sailing when he retired in the mid-1990's. He
began with the Disabled Sailing AssocIation at Jericho Beach and enjoyed
the sport's competitive nature. Now, he only sails internationally. The
three team members travel a lot. Last year they were in Greece, the year
before in Holland, and they've recently been to England, Spain and
Australia. Each January, February and March they train and compete in
"Once you get into doing the international circuit, you meet a
whole bunch of people and its good fun," MacDonald says.
The team's budget is about $150,000 year, all raised. Team members also
receive $1,100 per month from the federal government (the same as carded
MacDonald is a double amputee who lost his legs when a helicopter
crashed on top of him and two others when he was working as a diamond
driller while attending university. "I was the one that lived. I
was better off than the other guys," he says.
Tingley is a paraplegic who was injured in a skiing accident and Mackie
is a single amputee. Disabled sailing uses a points rating according to
disability. No team can have more than 14 points per boat. If you're
more severly disabled, you have a lower point count. Together, the three
Canadian team members add up to 14 points, making them eligible to race,
and eligible to sail their way to gold.