Smooth Sailing

BC students train Special Olympians to compete in World Games sailing races

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Patrick Brogan, '97 has been an avid sailor practically since he started walking and he jumped at the chance to join the Boston College sailing team. This year, he shared his affection for the sport with youngsters who ordinarily would never experience the thrill of steering a boat through the salt spray.

Brogan and his fellow varsity sailing teammates trained a crew to compete in this month's Special Olympics World Games, the first sailing squadron to ever represent Massachusetts. Four children from East Boston's Umana-Barnes Middle School were selected for the crew, out of 60 who originally signed up last year at the Courageous Sailing Center in Charlestown. The BC students shared responsibility for helping the Special Olympians get their sea legs by taking them out onto Boston's Inner Harbor for cruises and practice races once a week beginning in February.

The preparation paid off at the World Games sailing competition, held July 4 off the coast of New London, Conn. Three of the athletes raced their boat to a silver medal finish, while the fourth sailor's boat, competing in a different class, placed fourth.

The opportunity to work with Special Olympians was a result of some timely and happy coincidences, Brogan explained. The team wanted to expand its activities but owns no boats, so Athletic Facilities Maintenance Supervisor Norman Reid - the team's coach - and Senior Associate Athletic Director Edward Carroll contacted the Sailing Center to ask about using Courageous, the former America's Cup-winning sailboat stored at the center. Sailing Center officials told them they needed volunteers for their youth programs, such as the Special Olympics and a joint offering with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department to teach sailing to inner city children.

Brogan said he thoroughly enjoyed showing the youngsters, ages 12 to 13 and each with learning or moderate physical disabilities, the joys of sailing.

"They could not have imagined themselves in a boat," he said. "But they learned so much in a relatively short time, not only about sailing, but about themselves and what they can do. It was also a great social experience for them: They had lots of fun and they got to make friends."

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