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10 February 2005, 08:08 pm
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Australian sailing has lost a true hero with the death of Andrew HARTLEY in Adelaide last week. Andrew was lauded as the joint Australian Disabled Sailor of the Year only four months ago.
At the 2004 IFDS Single Person Dinghy Worlds, he became the only ventilated quadriplegic to have competed independently in a World Championships - in any sport. Andrew's contribution to the development of sailing for people with profound disabilities is without comparison. His extraordinary courage remains an inspiration to the people he came in contact with.

The following is kindly provided by one of Andrew's greatest supporters - Past President of Sailability South Australia, Deirdre SCHAHINGER.

'Andrew Charles Hartley: 9 June 1961 - 1 February 2005

In 1982, just four days before his 21st birthday, Andrew broke his neck at the C2 level during a game of rugby. He had no movement or feeling below his neck and was dependent on a ventilator to breathe twenty four hours a day.

Andrew learnt to sail with his father and two brothers on the lakes of England. He competed in national and international competition from the age of eleven. The family came to Australia in 1976 bringing with them Andrew's boat disguised as a piano. This 'piano', International Cadet sail number 6232 is still sailing competitively at Adelaide Sailing Club.

Andrew sailed at the Glenelg Sailing Club until 1982. In June of that year he broke his neck playing rugby union for Southern Suburbs - this accident left him a ventilator-dependant quadriplegic.

After twelve months in hospital, during which time he married his fiancée Anne, Andrew became the first ventilator-dependant quadriplegic in Australia to live in the community.

Andrew became involved with Sailability in 2002 when he learnt that a dinghy had been designed that would enable him to go sailing again. After a successful fund-raising campaign by the Hartley family and Deirdre Schahinger (Sailability SA) the Access Liberty was purchased in October 2003.

In October 2003, Andrew had his first sail in more than twenty years. Strapped tightly into an especially modified seat, with no head support and using a makeshift chin control, Andrew showed no fear or misgivings as he rounded the breakwater at Adelaide Sailing Club into open water and twelve-knot winds. Andrew's ventilator sat in an especially built compartment in the transom of his boat.

Andrew had become only the second ventilator-dependent quadriplegic in the World to sail solo. He steered the boat with his chin and was able to fine tune the sails using a magnetically activated reed switch taped to his cheek.

In Andrew's second sail, he competed in the first leg of the South Australian Access Dinghy State Titles. Again, despite no head support and a makeshift chin control, he amazed everyone with his determination and obvious sailing skills. Andrew completed both races in third place in the Liberty division; even managing to control his boat when his chin control came loose and slipped almost out of reach.

After just a couple of day's practice, Andrew competed in the 2004 IFDS Single-Person Disabled World Championships in Blairgowrie. In his first race he finished a highly creditable third, and also gained two fifths and a sixth during the regatta. He finished with an eighth overall in fleet A. This was despite having to carry thirty kilos of medical equipment in the transom of his boat. When Andrew competed at Blairgowrie, he became the only ventilated quadriplegic in history to compete in a World Championships - at ANY sport.

In February 2004, Andrew competed in the second leg of the South Australian Access Dinghy State Titles with obvious improvement on his first attempt.

In March 2004 Andrew sailed in the Sailability SA Regatta at Goolwa Regatta Yacht Club. He finished eight races over the weekend in winds sometimes exceeding twenty-knots, gaining a second place in two races.

Later in March, Andrew travelled to Sydney to represent Sailability SA in the Sail Sydney Harbour Disability Regatta where he finished fifth. Andrew was awarded the Best Seamanship Award, in what the organisers described as a 'lay down misere'

Andrew was elected to the board of Sailability SA in June 2003. He has attended every Sailability day at Adelaide Sailing Club, advising and encouraging new members; pioneering sailing for people with a profound disability. He was highly involved in raising the profile of Sailability in South Australia conducting a number of radio interviews and has been the subject of both newspaper and television features.

Andrew worked hard to raise funds for Sailability SA. Apart from raising enough money to buy three Liberties at the beginning of the season, Andrew spoke to service clubs and completed grant applications in an effort to secure further funding for disabled sailors in South Australia.

The 2004 Access Dinghy National Championships were held in October on Lake Macquarie in some of the worst weather for a long time Andrew showed his grit and determination to just even get there. Up at 5am to get the plane, then catch a train from Sydney which had to be abandoned due to flooding on the line, wait for a van to take his electric chair and the driver got lost. He bought us all large gin and tonics. Later that evening I un-wrapped my folding bed to find out that it was a folding chair; Andrew, like a true gentleman offered to share his double bed with me!

At the Nationals Andrew was presented with the Yachting Australia 2004 Disabled Sailor of the Year award with which he was delighted; for the recognition of not only his sailing ability but also his contribution to the sport of sailing.

When Andrew joined Adelaide Sailing Club he was delighted to see that his old boat was still racing with good results. Andrew had a strong competitive spirit and he had not lost his ability to hit the start-line on the gun going flat out, even though the crew on the start boat had to duck to avoid having their hats taken off by Andrew's Access Liberty mast. 15 to 20 knots of wind was Andrew's idea of a good breeze; the only condition that made him head for the bar on a race day was when the seas were over a metre as his chin control would move out of his reach and he was going nowhere. Lots of wind, flat water, sun sparkling on the sea was Andrew's favourite racing conditions.

Andrew will be missed for many qualities; his spirit, his wicked sense of humour, his friendship and his huge delight in being able to go sailing again. Breeze on, Andrew; fair winds and good sailing.

Deirdre Schahinger

6 February 2005'
Deirdre Schahinger
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