Caffari and Thompson to sail Easter Challenge

Vendee Globe stars to join Toe In The Water boats this weekend

Wednesday March 31st 2010, Author: Anna Wardley, Location: United Kingdom

Sailing legends Dee Caffari and holder of twenty five world records, Brian Thompson, will be racing with injured servicemen onboard two yachts in the 2010 RORC Easter Challenge. The servicemen’s participation in the event is a crucial part of their rehabilitation programme after sustaining traumatic injuries, many sustained whilst recently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sailing under the banner of Toe in the Water, the servicemen will be lining up to race with and against able-bodied teams for the three-day regatta. Many of them have never sailed before and the competitive environment provides a disciplined team setting with a shared focus which directly aids their rehabilitation.

Toe in the Water ambassador Brian Thompson said: “Sailing is almost unique in allowing the guys to race competitively in this way and on non-adapted boats and re-inspires those servicemen to see beyond their traumatic injuries. The RORC Easter Regatta marks the start of the racing season and for many of our participants it will signal a turning point in their lives.”

Toe in the Water is a non-profit organisation which uses sailing as a vehicle to re-inspire the injured servicemen and women, many of whom have been severely wounded and even lost limbs in active service in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who are currently treated at Headley Court, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre.

Toe in the Water Director of Racing and serving Royal Engineer Lloyd Hamilton recently returned from Afghanistan and commented: “It’s great to kick off the season with such great backing from our partners – I’m glad to be back just in time for our first event having been in Iraq for the start of the 2009 season. Thanks to the continued support from Dee and Brian, UKSA, RORC, the RYA and the Army Sailing Association the crew are looking forward to a great weekend of racing that will set the scene for a great second season for Toe in the Water.”

This weekend Toe in the Water will see Brian joining the Archambault 40RC, kindly loaned by the Army sailing Association, racing as Toe in the Water, and Dee Caffari will join the J/109 keel boat, racing as Toe in the Water Too, kindly provided by private owner Steve Maine.

Dee Caffari, who will be taking part in the double handed Barcelona World Race later this year (read more about this here), will be flying in from her Spanish training base for the event. Dee said: ‘Having raced with the guys last year, I have already seen first hand the positive impact being back in a competitive environment can have. I have absolutely no doubt that Toe in the Water Too and her crew will put in a great performance during the three-day regatta and I am very much looking forward to spending Easter weekend out on the water. What better way to work off all the chocolate eggs than some serious racing out in the Solent!’

While the rest of the able-bodied crew is drawn from the military and civilian sailing communities, most of the injured crew are complete novices and who, after just one day’s training on Thursday, will race on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Speaking at the Toe In The Water able-bodied crew selection weekend a few weeks ago, Olympic coach Jim Saltonstall said: “This is a fantastic initiative and one that I’m really proud to lend my support to. Most of these boys have never set foot on a boat before, let alone raced at this level and to see the difference it can make to them and the confidence it gives them back is amazing.”

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

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