Injured servicemen join crew

As the world remembers the events of 6 June 1944, casualties of today’s conflicts will be racing under the banner of Toe in the Water next week when three of the teams competing at the J80 National Championships (10-13 June) will see injured servicemen make up 40 percent of the crew.

In the third event of the 2009 season for the charity that re-inspires injured servicemen through competitive sailing, Toe in the Water has entered three J80 sportsboats generously loaned by the Royal Yachting Association. After a day of training on Wednesday, the crews will race on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the regatta hosted by the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble, Hampshire.
“We are really looking forward to competing in our first National Championships and we have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve had from everyone, especially all those involved the J80 Association,” the charity’s Co-Founder Holly King said. “We are fortunate to have some of the military’s best sailors helming the three boats and with all three services so strongly represented, I’m sure it will make the racing even more competitive than usual.”

The three entries will be Toe in the Sea skippered by the Royal Navy’s by LT Sam Meham, Toe in the Sand skippered by the Army’s WO2 Lloyd Hamilton and Toe in the Sky, skippered by the Royal Air Force’s SAC Kevin O’Brian.

Army Skipper and Toe in the Water’s Racing Manager WO2 Lloyd Hamilton said: “The J80s are great boats for the injured guys to sail on. They are fast, responsive and dynamic and because they are that bit smaller, they’ll be closer to the water and feel all the speed and exhilaration of racing in such a competitive class.”
Lucy Burn, Sailing Secretary at the Royal Southern Yacht Club, said: “The Royal Southern Yacht Club is delighted to have three entries from Toe in the Water competing at next week’s prestigious J80 UK National Championships. It’s shaping up to be a very competitive event and I look forward to seeing how the Toe in the Water teams gets on.”

Competitive sailing is offered by Toe in the Water as an extension of the injured servicemen’s rehabilitation programmes carried out at Headley Court, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre. Many of them have never sailed before and the competitive environment in the matched class, combined with the opportunity to race with and against able-bodied teams directly aids their rehabilitation. In particular, the framework of a disciplined race team structure, with shared goals, enables the guys to begin to re-integrate and re-engage in the world around them and start focusing on what they can still achieve.

Toe in the Water relies on voluntary contributions and the generosity of many organisations that offer their support. Toe in the Water Director Tanya Brookfield said: “As we prepare for our third regatta of the season, I’d like to extend our thanks for all the support we have received from the sailing community, the armed forces and the general public. We’d like to thank the RYA for providing three boats and the private owners who have loaned us their sails to enable us to enter three boats in the J80 National Championships. Without such generosity, we would not be able to offer this unique opportunity to those who have sustained traumatic injuries. We’re hoping to get more than 60 injured servicemen out racing this year and for many of them the experience will be significant in helping them see beyond their injuries.”

Toe in the Water, founded in 2008, will be entering teams in nine events throughout 2009. The programme commenced with the Red Funnel Easter Challenge and the Warsash Spring Championships and includes the J80 National Championships, the JP Morgan Round the Island Race, Cowes Week, and the J80 Autumn Cup.

Toe in the Water receives no statutory funding and relies entirely on voluntary contributions from individuals, trusts and companies.
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