A dream come true for the crew of Skandia Commitment

The team aboardSkandia Commitmentare very excited to be involved in Skandia Cowes Week – it was a dream of theirs to be part of this year’s Skandia Squad. Each Skandia Squad crew comprises four people: three competition winners and one qualified instructor from the Cowes based United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA). The difference betweenSkandia Commitmentand the other Sonar crews at Skandia Cowes Week is that the three girls are disabled. The Skandia Squad have supplied financial help with modifications required to sail the boat as well as food and accommodation for all the crews who make up the Skandia Squad. We caught up with Lucy Hodges from Rochford, Essex who has been blind all her life. She is 29 and first started sailing when her father read about RYA Sailability ten years ago – she has been hooked ever since.

Usually, Lucy sails with two visually impaired crewmembers and two able bodied, so the fact that all three girls aboardSkandia Commitmenthave different disabilities represents another new challenge. In the disabled sailing competitions that Lucy usually competes in, spinnakers are not used, so she’ll be adapting her racing style to suit this as well! Despite having only met twice before this week they are already good friends and Lucy is confident this friendship will make up for their lack of practice as a crew.

The Sonar that the team will be sailing has been adapted for their specific needs. The biggest change has been made for Kirsten Pollock who has Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome after an accident aged 21. This means that she is unable to bend her legs. Lucy explains “The ordinary tiller has been taken off and replaced with a smaller version, we put a frame with a wheel mounted on it over the mainsheet mount then there is a drum attached to that with a cord off either side which goes through a pulley system to a small tiller which creates the new wheel for Kirsten”. The third squad member is Megan Pascoe from Ardingly, West Sussex; she is Hemiplegic down one side of her body.

This is an amazing opportunity for the girls and they are all thrilled to be sailing at Skandia Cowes Week, as Lucy says: “It’s an opportunity that I just wouldn’t get otherwise. The support that we need to set up the boat with the modifications for our different disabilities costs so much that we just wouldn’t be able to do it.” It is clear why the three girls came immediately to the attention of the Skandia Squad judges as they have all overcome massive difficulties in pursuit of their sport. They’ve achieved a lot despite their disabilities and have clearly shown great commitment throughout. We’ll be catching up with the crew later in the week to see how they get on.