Wounded soldiers race round the cans

Six injured soldiers from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq will race around Plymouth Sound this weekend in the Royal Western Yacht Club’s J80 Autumn Cup.

They will be part of Toe- in- the- Water, a non-profit making organisation, which uses sailing as a vehicle to re-inspire injured servicemen and woman, many of whom have been wounded inactive service in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who currently being treated at Headley Court, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre.

Two boats were donated for the event by the RYA and another by the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. Each crew will be made up of two injured soldiers and three able-bodied crew and will compete not only against each other but also against other entries from all over the UK in eight races across Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th October.

The aim of the Initiative is simple. To provide injured servicemen and women with a challenging, demanding environment in which they can compete on an equal footing with their contemporaries. Yacht racing provides one of the few vehicles to compete against and alongside able-bodied people. It is ideal, because there are a myriad of different roles on board, requiring different physical and mental skills across a large competitive team.

The work at Headley Court is world-renowned for its successful rehabilitation programmes. Toe-in-the-Water is an extension of that process, giving injured servicemen the chance to compete in sailing at a high level and to improve their self-confidence and outlook on life.

The initiative is now being registered as an independent charity and is putting together a comprehensive racing programme in the UK and abroad planned for the next two to three years.