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Irish Sailing Legend to compete in Chicago this weekend at the Independence Cup

by Mary Ann O'Rourke 26 Jul 07:44 BST July 27-30, 2023
John Twomey © Mary Ann O'Rourke

Irish Sailing Association president John Twomey was a fierce cyclist in his teens, competing in the Rás, Ireland's annual international cycling race. However, a bicycle crash at the age of 15 left him paralysed from the waist down. The accident could not dampen his natural competitive spirit, though.

This weekend, not only will Twomey compete in the Independence Cup for sailors with disabilities taking place July 27-30 at Burnham Harbor, he will also serve as Guest Speaker at the 33rd Annual Independence Gala on July 28.

An Irish sailing legend, Twomey has represented Ireland at 11 consecutive Paralympic games winning medals at three of them. As a helmsman, he has competed in the triple handed Sonar, a 23-foot keelboat in the 2000 Sydney Games, 2004 Athens Games, 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games and the doublehanded SKUD-18 in the 2008 Beijing Games. At the 2015 ISAF World Championships in Weymouth, his team won the bronze medal in the Sonar Class.

"To me, sailing is simply chess on the water," says Twomey. "It's a highly tactical sport - sailor against the wind. As such, the sport is a great equalizer for those with disabilities."

The County Cork native, Twomey is the first disabled person to become president of the 20,000-member Irish Sailing Association.

The Independence Cup is hosted by the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation (JGASF), a Chicago-based non-profit organization that enables disabled adults as well as at-risk youth to learn the sport of sailing. All boats used in the Independence Cup are specially designed for disabled sailors. The boats are JGASF-owned and are available to the entrants at no cost. In addition, out-of-town race participants are offered complimentary stays at the Palmer House Hilton, a major sponsor of JGASF. Transportation is provided by Illinois-Cook Corporation. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab physicians are on hand for medical advice and attention during the race.

For the Independence Cup, Twomey will compete with two crew members on a Sonar.

"I look forward to coming to Chicago because the Judd Goldman group is so accommodating," says Twomey. "They have a great fleet of boats and a terrific group of volunteers."

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