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Bronze for determined Scots sailors in Abu Dhabi

by Becky Gilbert-Wood 26 Mar 2019 14:49 GMT 14-21 March
Cornich Beach - Special Olympics World Games © RYA Sailability

Two sailors from the Special Olympics GB Sailing Team, received bronze medals after competing in their first World Games in Abu Dhabi last week (14-21 March).

After a very hot and windy experience sailing on the Persian Gulf, Jamie Cairns and unified partner Darren MacGregor, from Renfrewshire, Scotland were awarded a bronze medal in the Division 2 fleet.

Their team mates, Shannon McGhee and Laura Carrick, placed 4th in Division 3, while Lewis Nicolson sailing with Mick Kelly finished 5th - but of course the experience was much more than just the sailing.

There were 15 countries with around 40-50 sailors competing on-the-water, across four differing divisions in reefed down Bahia dinghies. It was certainly different to the conditions the Scottish sailors were used to back home - where they started their journey through charity, able2sail.

Bronze medallist Jamie Cairns said: "A few days we couldn't actually sail because it was far too windy. We capsized once only, that was hard to get back up, but the water was quite warm, well very warm. It's been an amazing experience and I got bronze last night!"

As his unified partner Darren MacGregor (19) added: "The whole thing, the whole journey has been amazing and it has been the people that have really made it amazing on this trip."

"The highlight has been going out on the boat with many others. It is so different to where we sail with the colour of the water and, it's hot," commented Shannon McGhee, who sailed with Laura Carrick as the unified partner.

Laura Carrick added "We have had an amazing reception here, it's hard to get your head around, we have been to local schools and venues - it's been incredible. I wasn't expecting the level of people. It's just such a big thing out here.

"It's been touch and go at times due to the winds, with the adrenaline building to go racing and then it's postponed. The young people have been absolutely amazing to hold their own out here and it's given Shannon so much confidence."

Lewis Nicolson looked very content and happy next to his unified partner, Mike Kelly. He commented on his highlights. "Being on stage at the medal ceremony was quite nice." Smiling he added thoughtfully: "The reception at the school was cool too."

Mike commented on the racing aspect: "The best and worst moment was being on the start line with 16 other racers, which was a bit daunting at first, but really good fun. The weather has been a big contrast, with the most surprising thing being the wind, which has been very strong, we didn't expect that. In the shore the hospitality has been amazing, really, no expense spared by the event organisers."

The team has been led by Competition and Coaching Advisor and RYA Sailability Regional Organiser (Scotland), David Hill, who commented: "It goes without saying I'm immensely proud of the team while we have been out here, but also the journey to get here. They have shown great commitment to this for almost two years now and it showed during the competition with the guys holding their own against sailors with more experience of big events.

"Looking ahead the challenge is to get more people into this kind of sailing and develop crews for the other levels in Special Olympic Sailing, it's only two years until the next national games in Liverpool and four until the next World Games in Berlin 2023."

The biannual Special Olympics World Games were hosted this year in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from 14 - 21 March 2019. The inclusive event is a celebration of inclusivity and empowerment for those with intellectual disabilities. Visit abudhabi2019.org for more information.

To find out more about sailing opportunities for disabled people, or those that need specific support to get on-the-water visit rya.org.uk/sailability.

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