Veterans from teams Neptune and Vulcan arrived at Fiddler’s Cove Marina Wednesday to try adaptive sailing with the help of the Warrior Sailing Program.
At the marina, Veterans receive an hour-long safety briefing that ends with basic sailing instruction before they go out onto the sailboats in teams of two or three with a professional sailing coach from the Warrior Sailing Program. Before the end of the session, each Veteran will steer the boat, adjust the lines and use the wind to sail.
The Warrior Sailing Program prefers the term “inclusive” over the term “adaptive” because the nonprofit believes that each and every person can learn to sail with the right equipment. Warrior Sailing provides maritime education and outreach for wounded, ill and injured service members and Veterans.
Using sailing as a platform, Warrior Sailing improves the participant’s physical and mental health while reconnecting them with the camaraderie and teamwork the Veterans had during their military service. The program educates participants in the sport of sailing, sailboat racing and maritime safety. They encourage participant’s technical, social and job skill development through leadership, teamwork, and self-reliance. They also empower participants with resources and opportunities for sustained engagement within the sailing community.
“It’s less of a physical sport than it is a mental sport, so as soon as you level the playing field with equipment, and everybody can sail the boats effectively, it’s all about how you manage the course, how you outsmart your competitors, and how you work as team,” said Warrior Sailing Program coordinator Cory Kapes. “Veterans are naturally great at those skills, and they can all try sailing here at the Clinic. If they love it, we help them join our program.”
Army Veteran and clinic ambassador Charles “Chuck” Miller tried sailing for the first time when he was a participant at the 2015 Summer Sports Clinic said, “It changed my life. Sailing is a peaceful, slow, and technical sport. You can feel the water and hear the waves and the birds. You don’t have to be able to see to enjoy sailing.”
Miller is also the first blind Veteran ever to complete the Warrior Sailing Program. He jokingly adds, “the program has changed my life to where I feel probably way more independent than I should, sometimes I even forget I’m blind.”
About the author: Jamie Dannen is a public affairs specialist in the Technical Career Field Program at VA New Orleans. She is an Army Veteran and a graduate of Kansas State University.