Disabilities were left behind on the dock as 41 sailors from across North America and as far away as Australia challenged the waters of Halifax harbour from August 25 to 30. The Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron was the site of the High Liner Foods 2013 Mobility Cup, a sailing regatta for people with disabilities of all kinds. The competitors sailed Martin 16 sailboats which are specially constructed to allow a variety of adaptations to allow people with disabilities to experience the freedom and competitiveness of sailing.
Emerging victorious in the Gold Fleet and claiming the Mobility Cup was Christine Lavallée of Gatineau, Quebec. This follows Lavallée’s gold medal performance in the Canada Summer Games 2.4 class this past summer. Second place was taken by last year’s winner, Marc Villeneuve of Laval, Quebec and third by the 2011 winner, Pierre Richard of Montreal, Quebec.
Mobility Cup winner Lavallée says she was happy to be back in Halifax. She competed in her first Mobility Cup in Halifax in 2007. She credits the good winds and the volunteer support for her victory though she wishes the weather conditions had not caused so many cancellations. “But that’s the life of a sailor,” she says.
The winner of the Dallaire Cup as the top competitor in the Silver Fleet was Jean-Paul Dussault of LaSalle, Quebec. Tracy Schmitt of Toronto, Ontario was second in the Silver fleet and Basil Katsivalis of Pointe-Claire, Quebec won third place. For Dallaire Cup winner Dussault, the win was particularly gratifying because it was his first appearance at a Mobility Cup. He has been sailing for three years at his home club, AQVA in Pointe-Claire, Quebec and competing at smaller regattas.
“The racing here at Halifax was very exciting and I am very pleased with my result,” says Dussault.
There was hardly a dull moment out on the water during the week of sailing competition. The weather played a key role in the regatta resulting in several cancelled races including all racing on the final day. Equipment issues, particularly with the assistive electronic gear, kept dock crews and the support teams busy.
Tremendous assistance and goodwill was received from the Yacht Squadron and its staff. Competitors and volunteers alike were welcomed to this historic facility which has its beginnings in 1837. For some sailors, it was their first experience with ocean waters and the winds and weather that can present itself. Local sailors and coaches provided briefings on what to expect and a practice day prior to the start of the regatta gave the competitors a taste of what was to come.
The event was fortunate to have over 90 volunteers, many of whom booked off work to devote the entire week to the regatta. While most volunteers came from the Halifax area, including members of the RNSYS, many dock-side volunteers and coaches accompanied the competing teams, travelling from as far away as British Columbia.
Other awards presented at the closing ceremony included the Sam Sullivan trophy, which recognizes the highest placing “sip and puff” sailor, won for a record 10th time by Rene Dallaire. of Montreal, Quebec. The Debbie Donald award for the highest placing female sailor was won by Christine Lavallée of Gatineau, Quebec and the Daren Tucker award for demonstrating tenacity during the regatta was won by Terry Leblanc of Vancouver, B.C.
The first Mobility Cup was held in Vancouver in 1991, the idea of the former mayor of that city, Sam Sullivan. Sullivan was looking for a way to enhance the sailing experience of the group of sailors that had formed around a donated boat, one given to Rick Hansen by Margaret Thatcher in the UK on his famous travels around the world. Mobility Cup has since grown and developed into an international regatta and the premier event of adaptive sailing in this country.
Mobility Cup moves to Alberta in 2014 and will take place on scenic Lower Kananaskis Lake, in partnership with William Watson Lodge–a fully accessible wilderness retreat in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.