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8 May 2006, 10:17 am
Round Up From Bermuda
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Bacardi International Invitational Race Week 2006
Hamilton, Bermuda

Watching from the shore at the recent Bacardi International Invitational Race Week in Bermuda, as Danny MCCOY (CAN) expertly helmed his J/22 Etchell through punishing conditions in Hamilton harbour, it was impossible to tell what distinguishes him from the rest of the fleet of top international sailors.
You need to take a close look inside the cockpit to see that he is paralyzed from the chest down and is skippering the boat thanks to an ingenious piece of homemade technology.

Crafted from recycled wheelchair wheels, plumbing pipe and a plastic garden chair as well as a few slightly more hi-tech extras, the modified design enables MCCOY to steer the boat and marshal his crew.

MCCOY, from Toronto, last visited Bermuda as a promising semi-pro sailor at International Race Week, 1994. Less than a year later he was involved in a car accident in Buffalo, New York, which put him in hospital for a year and left him unable to walk. At that stage he thought he would never be back.

'Sailing Saved My Life'

'Sailing saved my life. I was so depressed,' he revealed. 'Some very close friends brought me back to the sport and it gave me a new confidence to deal with life in general. It gave me a new sense of being part of the world again.'

'Today was probably the best day I've had,' he said midway through the race week. 'Tough wind, tough conditions, water coming over the side and I think all I was doing was smiling.'

'I wish everybody could have been out on the water to see my face close up,' said MCCOY last Monday, after coming through a choppy day two of the race series.

MCCOY got involved with the Canadian Paralympic team and has worked with various charities to help make life easier for other disabled people, whatever their passion. His mates, he says, have been an immeasurable source of help and inspiration in his journey back to the big time.

It was long time friend, John MUIR, a crewmember on the current trip, who first approached Jorg PAWLIK, who develops technology for disabled sailors, about working on the new Etchell design.

PAWLIK worked for about 200 hours before he came up with the seat. The seat slides from side to side and a canting system, operated by a crewmember using a rope, enables MCCOY to tilt with the boat. A restructured steering system allows him to sail the boat using a modified 'joy-stick' in front of his seat, rather than the regular tiller. It is a design that he hopes to bring into the public domain through Shake-a-Leg Miami, a charity for the disabled.

The 54 year old is thrilled to be able to compete against the likes of Bermuda's Pete BROMBY and other top international sailors.

Results From Bermuda

It was BROMBY who proved the central actor in the final drama of the regatta, fighting back from behind to reclaim his Etchells crown on the final day of International Race Week on the Great Sound on 5 April. Another Bermudian and IOD World Champion, Penny SIMMONS, failed to retain his Race Week title in the IODs because he was DSQ in the last race on a port-starboard infraction. 15 points instead of two put him in second place. Giles PECKHAM and Miles CARVER from Hampshire, Great Britain took the Vrengen Gold Cup by three clear points.

James WHITTAKER/Bermuda Sun (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Action from Bermuda:© BIIRW 2006
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