We received a call in 2016 from Michael R., a Navy sailor who purchased a B-25 specifically to bring US PATRIOT Sailing, a non-profit sailing program with a mission to help Wounded, Disabled, and Combat Veterans through competitive sailing, to San Diego. He was looking to add an Asymmetric spinnaker to the training mix to make the mechanics of spinnaker work easier to execute, especially for the physically challenged Veterans sailing on his boat. The Trogear bowsprit was an integral part of the plan.
“The Trogear sprit and an Asym reduces the amount of gear and the need for able body crew to work on the bow, but still keeps the boat competitive,” said Michael. “ A mobility challenged Vet can sit in the pit, rig the Spinnaker, set the bobstay and Tack lines, prep the spin sheets on the winches, tail the spin halyard, release the Jib halyard, then grind the spin sheets or adjust the bobstay. The whole evolution requires one guy on the bow to feed the tack, then go to the mast to jump halyard, then get back on the rail. This opens the bow/ mast position up to a Wounded Vet because he or she doesn’t have to juggle a 9.5’ Spinnaker pole, sheets, guys, topping lift, all while the boat is heeling 10+ degrees, and trying to hold on. So instead of 2-3 guys getting involved with the spin prep while approaching the Windward mark 1-3 minutes out, the pit can do 90% of the work and task the bowman once pit is ready, which should be 10-20 seconds from hoist – both of these positions can be physically wounded veterans,” Michael, explained.
In the process of working with Michael to outfit his B-25 “Spirit” we learned more about the US PATRIOT Sailing program, their mission and the lives they have impacted. It is uplifting to hear about how Veterans who are established sailors help others access our healthy life-sport to find positive ways to deal with the new realities of physical and mental wounds.
Often after service ends Veterans are suddenly without access to the TEAM environment that is so fundamental to military life. Sailing can provide a similar team experience where veterans navigate dynamic challenges; experience healthy adrenaline and excitement, calm and peace and camaraderie – all in one event. Sailing builds on the camaraderie and discipline that are paramount to military life.
Also, these Teammates stick together. Imagine sailing with a crew of strangers once or twice and then having them drive an hour to bring you your groceries and to cheer you up each day as you recover from surgery just a month after meeting? They instantly work together as if they have all known each other for years.
The Program Works: Michael pointed out that twenty-two veterans commit suicide every single day in the USA – more than double the rate of civilian suicides.
We haven’t heard much in the way of personal profiles of woe, but in conversation we quickly learned how US Patriot Sailing’s program has directly inspired several Veterans to regain hope and focused purpose – preventing further tragic loss. Several Veterans recently expressed that their personal stories would have ended differently if US PATRIOT Sailing had not welcomed them onto the Team and opened the door to sailing. Other Veterans, who started as volunteers, have recognized their own symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) only after helping others who were being treated for TBI. Through the camaraderie of common bonds they speak frankly about life, transition out of the military, common struggles, and laugh together about things most would find stressful. In the end, they help each other work through problems, while still holding each other accountable to be their best- as they did when they were in uniform.
Most of the Teams are all Veteran crews sailing in San Diego, Annapolis and Virginia Beach, but they also travel to national events and sail offshore. To support their aggressive schedules, US PATRIOT Sailing owns a Farr 30 (which they raced over 100 days this year on the East Coast )and a B-25 in San Diego. But their real impact comes from a network of over 20 supporting skippers nationally that allows the program to support more than 100 Veterans weekly!
“We are very pleased to see US PATRIOT Team San Diego sailing with the Trogear this fall. It’s great to see how well our sprit fits into the needs of the program – a program that is making a difference,“ said Henry Dokonal, Trogear inventor.
US Patriot Sailing, a 501(c)3 non-profit, was founded in 2014 and relies heavily on the veteran community for volunteer staff and outreach. A donation of equipment and /or funds is always greatly appreciated and can be made by contacting: Contact@USPatriotSailing.org
Veterans – looking for your next challenge? Find out more here.