‘A whole new world of freedom’: Sailors with Disabilities Compete at an Elite Level
On the water, it’s a level playing field for sailors of all abilities to compete.
BY WILL LINENDOLL (VIA GOOD MORNING AMERICA)
Pauline Dowell may never be able to drive a car, but she can sail a boat around the world.
Dowell is legally blind and is one of many athletes with disabilities who competes in the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta, an event she has competed in since losing her sight nearly a decade ago.
Each year, dozens of athletes with disabilities participate in the twice-a-year event, which is held in both Newport, Rhode Island, and Oyster Bay, New York. The mission is to provide a space for sailors with disabilities to train and compete at an elite level, and sailors of various abilities — ranging from paraplegia to those missing limbs to those who are blind—are invited to show off their skills.
Since its founding in 2002, 20 of the regatta’s sailors have gone on to win medals at the Paralympics.
“These sailors have done very well,” Clagett president, chair and co-founder Judy Clagett McLennan told Good Morning America. “Just because you may not have a leg or you have a disease-driven issue doesn’t mean that you are not a whole person inside and that you need to expel that competitive energy somewhere and sailing is one of the many ways they can do this.”
Perhaps no one is more competitive than Dowell, who has a degenerative eye disease that has left her legally blind.
“I’m very passionate about every aspect of sailing, and it’s growing every year,” she told Good Morning America.
Dowell loves sailing so much, she even resides on a sailboat in Boston Harbor with her guide dog.
“It was always a dream to live on a boat,” she said. “I live year-round [on the boat] and yes, the boat is heated.”
She says that sailing has given her a new beginning.