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photo:: Kajuzi Shimizu (as posted on IPC web site for sailing)

Sailing is part of the 2004 Paralympic Games.


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Paralympic
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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, says MacDonald.

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 dividends.

"If the wind blows, we'll definitely be disappointed without a gold."

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 Florida.

"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 able-bodied athletes).

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.

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