Inspiring people to overcome obstacles

Published on July 27th, 2021

In 1995, Boston sailor Maureen McKinnon tripped while pushing her bicycle and fell 13 feet off a seawall in Rockland, Maine. Landing in shallow water she became paralyzed from the waist down.

As a paraplegic, Maureen thought her sailing days were over, but several years later, as she watched a regatta from the dock, she wheeled over to another chair-bound spectator and asked him if his wife was sailing.

“I’m the one racing,” said her new friend Rick Doerr. “Are you a sailor?” Maureen replied that she used to be. “Once a sailor, always a sailor,” said Doerr.

Less than a week later, Maureen was competing in a Wednesday night beer can race. Next thing she knew, Doerr invited her to be part of his Sonar campaign for the 2004 Paralympics.

They finished third at the trials, not quite good enough for a trip to Athens, so Maureen set her sights on Beijing.

Asked to join sailing legend Nick Scandone’s crew – the skipper was battling ALS at the time – they nailed first place at the U.S. Paralympics Team Trials and in 2008 it was off to Beijing. In a perfect moment that captured the essence of human spirit, Scandone and crew pulled it off and secured their gold medal.

As a single mom of a 15-year-old boy and a 21-year-old girl, Maureen travels the country as a motivational speaker inspiring people to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. She will also be competing in the Independence Cup for sailors with disabilities on July 22-25 in Chicago, IL.

The regatta is sponsored by Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation (JGASF), a Chicago-based non-profit organization that enables disabled adults as well as at-risk youth to learn the sport of sailing.

All boats used in the Independence Cup are specially designed for disabled sailors – 2.4mR, Independence 20, and Sonar – and JGASF-owned and 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.

Event informationRace detailsEntry list – Results

Source: Mary Ann O’Rourke

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