Watch above: Two West Island yacht clubs are raising money to help disabled sailors realize their nautical dreams. Reporter Billy Shields has more.
LAC ST-LOUIS – The Sperry Top-Sider Challenge took to Lac Saint-Louis on a rain-drenched Saturday afternoon.
The sailboat race involved several classes of boats, but the most intriguing was the class of about a half-dozen Martin 16s that trolled the lake.
Those boats were helmed by sailors with disabilities – some of whom use wheelchairs to get around.
“The ability for those guys to go sailing is really something,” said David Wisenthal, the co-chair of the event.
“I mean it’s really under the most dire circumstances, and it really speaks legions to their ambition and their determination.”
The race was held in the lake roughly halfway between two West Island yacht clubs, Dorval’s Royal Saint Lawrence Yacht Club and the Pointe-Claire Yacht Club.
Organizers hope to raise about $25,000 so they could add another Martin 16.
The boat has design features which make it easier for a disabled sailor to handle.
“It’s designed in such a manner that it’s untippable, and so they can go out and sail in any weather without having their full faculties,” Wisenthal said.
“It really makes a big difference.”
The boat is about the same size as a racing dinghy, but has a joystick like an airplane that controls the rudder, and typical jib and main sheets to trim the sails.
It can also be trimmed by use of a straw mechanism similar to those found on electric wheelchairs.
Not everyone in the race with a disability used a special boat.
Erick Poirier, for example, has been in a wheelchair for 20 years after a serious auto accident.
For the race, he was helming a yacht owned by friend Alain Dubuc called the “Borean.”
“My family has been in boats for years,” Poirier explained.
“My father was a captain at the Port of Montreal.”
This is the regatta’s second year.