Eight injured servicemen sailing at the Red Funnel Easter Regatta, under the banner of Toe in the Water, the charity that sponsored Steve White in the Vendee Globe, kicked off the racing season in style. One team clinched a podium position in the overall rankings whilst all three crews gained top three placings over the course of the weekend. Toe in the Water co-founder, Holly King, said: “It is a phenomenal achievement as many of these boys had never sailed before.”
Participation in sailing events forms a part of an injured servicemen’s rehabilitation program after sustaining traumatic injuries. The eight sailing with Toe in the Water, who have all been treated at the Defense Medical Rehabilitation Centre, at Headley Court, lined up with and against able bodied sailors for the three day regatta. Many of them had never sailed before and the competitive environment provided a disciplined team setting with a shared focus which directly aids their rehabilitation.
Simon Miller, an officer cadet, who sustained extensive injuries after falling 150ft from Blencathra in the Lake District, was one of the crew on Little Toe, a J80 loaned by the RYA. In August 2008, just before completing his officer training, Simon sustained a broken neck, broken shoulder, broken arm, serious head injuries and a multiple fractures to his right leg, whilst competing in an ultra marathon. A former hockey player and runner, he is now unable to do many of the sports he used to and is still undergoing surgery for his injuries. He spent the weekend sailing alongside able bodied crew and Chris Herbert, 21, who lost his leg whilst serving with the Territorial Army in Iraq in 2007. Simon said: “I’ve started looking at what I can do now rather than what I can’t do anymore. It’s been great sailing with Toe in the Water this weekend. It’s something I haven’t done before and it’s great to be back to being part of a team again.”
The other keelboat racing under the Toe in the Water banner was Big Toe, a J109 loaned by private owner Steve Maine. Alongside injured crew members, Lance Corporal Johnathan Lee, 26, and Nick Gibbons, 18, both of whom lost a leg in active service, was Ben Rogerson, 25, who is to sail Round Britain in his Mini Class 6.5 meter boat to raise funds for Toe in the Water, which relies on voluntary contributions and the generosity of many organizations that offer their support. Pic from Paul Wyeth and more here.