Quadriplegic to compete in Independence Cup

Published on July 27th, 2018

Thirty-seven years ago, Dave Whalen lost the use of his arms and legs in a ski accident. On July 27-29, the quadriplegic from Scotia, New York, will participate in the Independence Cup, an adaptive sailboat race on Lake Michigan in Chicago, IL.

He’ll do so with the use of a “sip-and-puff” control mechanism in which all of the boat’s functions, including steering and setting sails, are controlled by the sailor’s breath.

“It’s a pretty simple concept,” says the 56-year-old criminal lawyer. “One of the straws is set up to do the steering. If you sip, you’re going to go starboard and if you puff, you go to port. And the other straw is set up so that if you sip, the sails come in and if you puff, sails go out.”

Dave first started adaptive sailing in 1995 at the Mobility Cup in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has also participated in Canadian adaptive sailing programs and though a YMCA-sponsored program on Lake George, New York.

However, it wasn’t until the last two years, thanks to sip-and-puff technology, that Whalen was able to race a Sonar (a keel boat suited for disabled sailing because of its large open cockpit) with breath controls. He competed in 2016 and 2017 in the C. Thomas Clagett, Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta in Newport, RI.

“Sailboat racing is really a wonderful thing for me because it’s become so accessible,” says Dave. “It almost feels like skiing in a way because the waves are like moguls creating that up and down motion in the boat. It’s exhilarating to be up against nature out on the open water.”

The Independence Cup for sailors with disabilities is sponsored by the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation (JGASF), a Chicago-based non-profit organization that enables disabled adults and at-risk youth to learn the sport of sailing.

All boats used in the Independence Cup are specially designed for the disabled. The boats are JGASF-owned and are available to the entrants at no cost. In addition, out-of-town race participants are offered complimentary stays at the Palmer House Hilton, a major sponsor of JGASF

JGASF informationEvent detailsEntry list

Source: Mary Ann O’Rourke


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