The Mobility Cup

In Sports, Wheelin' and Dealin' by Matthew Wild

The Mobility Cup is Canada’s annual international regatta for sailors with a disability. This year’s event, held in Vancouver Sept.

11 – 15, is open to all, regardless of the extent of their disability or limitations of their sailing experience.

40 Mobility Cup entrants will be divided into two classes – Gold and Silver Fleets – depending on racing experience rather than physical abilities. They will range from novice sailors to highly experienced Paralympians.

Danny McCoy, 54, of Toronto, will likely be the most experienced competitor. He is a Canada’s Cup veteran and had participated in world championship events from Finland to Melbourne before being becoming paraplegic in a car crash in 1994.

He cites that his return to the sport made him reassess his view of his limitations, post accident, and realize just how much he could do.

“Sailing is total freedom,” said McCoy. “You are leaving your wheelchair at the dock. You don’t need a power chair, or a manual [wheelchair], you use the power of the wind to push the boat along.

“Most individuals that are disabled would like to be able to compete on a level playing field. Well, there are no handicaps involved in sailing. We all sail the same. We prepare the boat so it benefits our disability but there’s no handicap in sailing – the first guy across the line wins.”

As an example of this he cites U.S. disabled sailor Nick Scandone – diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease – who beat a field of able-bodied sailors to win the 2.4mR World Championships in Italy last September [2005].

Dean Brenner, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Committee, was quoted at the time relating that Scandone had been judged evenly with able-bodied sailors, winning “based on his performance without any compensation or adjustment” for his disability.

Overseeing the whole event will be Vancouver’s mayor, Sam Sullivan – famed for flying the16-square-foot Olympic and Paralympic flag from his motorized wheelchair at the Turin Winter Games closing ceremonies earlier this year – who has been a pivotal figure in the disabled sailing movement.

Sullivan, a quadriplegic following a 1979 skiing accident, found sailing to be a vehicle for empowering people. He launched the Disabled Sailing Association of BC (DSA BC) in 1989 and organized the first Mobility Cup two years later to promote adaptive sailing internationally.

Dubbed a “regatta of possibility,” it was first held in Vancouver back in August 1991. Since then the event has worked its way across Canada and back, growing in stature each year and spawning adaptive sailing projects across the globe.

This year’s Mobility Cup will be hosted by DSA BC and the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. There will be practice sessions for sailors, with classroom and on-the-water training for Silver Fleet participants, and boat charters will be available.