Injured soldiers take on sailing yachts in prestigious island race

SETTING SAIL Toe in the Water crew in action
SETTING SAIL Toe in the Water crew in action

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DISABLED servicemen have crewed two yachts in a competitive race, thanks to a Gosport-based charity.

Toe in the Water, based in Haslar Road, Gosport, put its boat, Toe in the Water, into the Round the Island Race.

It was skippered by record-breaking round the world yachtswoman, Dee Caffari.

Dee praised her injured and non-injured crew for their work racing around the Isle of Wight on Saturday.

She said: ‘The race is always a great event and an amazing spectacle with near perfect sailing conditions yesterday.

‘I had a brilliant crew onboard and we had a good race.

‘After just one day training the new crew, some new to sailing, all finished tired and smiling.’

Led by Dee the team came 23rd in their class, finishing in just five hours, 35 minutes and 28 seconds.

And the charity also entered Toe in the Water Too, which finished the race in five hours, 59 minutes and 15 seconds and came 19th in its class.

Captain James Morgan took part in the race after a day’s training.

He broke two discs in his back while on tour in Afghanistan back in January 2012.

He said his injury was minor compared to soldiers who have suffered in combat.

‘It was really good, it was the first time I’ve taken part in the race,’ he said.

‘The start was phenomenal, there were so many boats.

‘When the sun came up behind you and you could see Portsmouth’s skyline.

‘It was just a sea of masts and sails behind you.’

It was only his second time out on the water with the full crew aboard Toe in the Water Too, after spending Friday training.

He added: ‘It was great when we crossed the line, pulling ahead past some smaller boats.

‘The core crew have all raced before, and the injured crew had a day sailing with them in the Solent.

‘It’s phenomenally important Toe in the Water and other military charities exist.

‘You’re catastrophically injured, lose a leg or more, and the temptation to think “life is over, I may as well give up now” must be overwhelming.

‘Toe in the Water takes guys on referral of their medical trainers and rehab specialists.

‘And because you’re competing alongside and against able-bodied people it gives guys the opportunity to really experience that buzz, drive and enjoyment of being part of a team.

‘It allows them to make that mental switch, that yes, I have been injured, life is different but it’s not over.’