Adaptive Sailing at its Best

Published on April 14th, 2015

This year the American and Larchmont Yacht Clubs in New York will be hosting the seventh Robie Pierce Regattas for sailors with disabilities; and this amazing event keeps getting better year after year.

Since the two clubs began the “Robie,” over two hundred sailors have raced on the Long Island Sound in the clubs’ especially adapted Ideal 18s. This could not have been possible without the assistance of scores of club and area volunteers.

This year’s Robie Pierce Women’s Invitational, still the world’s only all-women’s adaptive regatta, will be sailed from American Yacht Club on Thursday, May 28. The Robie Pierce One-Design Regatta will run from Friday, May 29 through Sunday, May 31.

Since its beginning, the Robie has been jointly chaired by a trio dedicated to advancing adaptive sailing in western Long Island Sound. Siobhan Reilly and Bill Sandberg from American Yacht Club and Buttons Padin from Larchmont Yacht Club have assembled and maintain a standing committee of core volunteers drawing from both clubs.

Over the years, the Robie has evolved significantly—incorporating a broader base of people with disabilities (as inclusive as possible), attracting more disabled veterans, and refining the adaptations fitted into the Ideals. And while the Robie clearly isn’t plug-and-play, the committee’s ability to recreate the Robie regattas every year is a testament to their dedication and enthusiasm.

The world of adaptive sailing programs in the U.S. is very limited with only a handful of major regattas and introductory programs. Those individuals who participate in this aspect of sailing will make the effort to travel to the Robie and the other majors for the competition and the support of the adaptive sailing community. As such, the Robie attracts disabled sailors from across the U.S. and Canada.

At last year’s Robie, sailed at Larchmont Yacht Club, six boats raced in Thursday’s Robie Pierce Women’s Invitational—not a remarkable statistic except that five crew were Burke Rehabilitation Center outpatients who had never sailed before. Once properly “geared-up,” those women had the time of their lives when matched with an experienced disabled sailor and an able-bodied (AB) sailor. After four races the team of Judy Kowaleski (San Diego, CA) and Karrell Reginer (Gatineau, QC) sailing with AB Ginny Worcester (Southport, CT) took the day with three first places and one second.

Over the three-day One-Design Regatta, 19 boats sailed as LYC’s PRO Cynthia Parthemos had her hands full as the weekend’s winds did not always cooperate. In the end, Hyannis Yacht Club’s Mike Hersey, sailing with 2008 Paralympic Gold Medalist Maureen McKinnon (Marblehead, MA) and Mike’s son Matt as AB, won a tie-breaker for the title. They beat the U.S. Paralympic Team member Gerry Tiernan (Falmouth, ME) and Dennis Moran (Framingham, MA).

This May it will be more of the same, with past sailors and volunteers eager to see old friends and welcome the new participants. A very special event held for and run by equally special people.

Details: robiepierceonedesignregatta.com

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