For 21 military veterans, the word “can’t” is the one thing they won’t be bringing with them to San Diego Harbor. Not willing to let injury or medical condition hold them back from the rest of their lives, these disabled veterans will take part in a novice sailing camp from Monday, May 4 to Wednesday, May 6 at the San Diego Yacht Club on Point Loma.
The Warrior Sailing Program was founded with a mission to introduce active military and disabled veterans to the sport of sailing, with opportunities ranging from introductory-level sailing to world- championship competition. Together with the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge, these organizations give back the gift of competition, camaraderie and being a part of a unit.
Participants who need an inspiration won’t have to look far, as the program’s founder is Jen French, a Paralympic medalist. “The goal is to share the spirit of sailing with our military warriors and to teach them skills on the water and for a better quality of life,” French said.
The free program features adaptive technology brought in by the program and sailboats provided by San Diego Yacht Club, which will be hosting the program. Participants come from all branches of the military and have varying injuries that range from limb loss, traumatic brain injuries and post- traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.
“Sailing is an inclusive sport and community,” stated French. “There is a restorative, healing process that sailing provides, and it also gives them a chance to flex their competitive muscles.”
Participants will sail together in teams of three on J-22 sailboats, with each team having an on-board professional coach. The basic training camp is the West Coast debut of the program.
For yacht club commodore John Laun, this program is the perfect way for his group to use its resources and sport knowledge to give back to the community that has served this country.
“The San Diego Yacht Club is very proud to host the Warrior Sailing Program’s basic training camp,” Laun said. “Hopefully, many of the participants will find sailing and racing enjoyable, and all will certainly benefit from the lessons in leadership skills, teamwork and self-reliance learned on a sailing race course.”
Camp graduates will learn about local sailing opportunities through yacht club outreach and the Challenged Sailors San Diego (www.challengedsailors.org). Select graduates will join the Warrior Sailing Team to learn advanced racing skills and compete in open racing events and those for the disabled across the country and around the world, including the US Disabled National Championship in San Diego Aug. 27 through 29.
More information on the Warrior Sailing Program can be found at warriorsailing.org.