by Jo Uffendell
Toe in the Water, a Tri service initiative, today launched its 2013 racing programme which will see around 50 injured servicemen compete in key sailing events throughout the summer.
Toe in the Water logo
Founded in 2008, the initiative uses competitive sailing as a rehabilitation tool for injured service personnel, many of whom have been wounded in active service in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who are currently treated at Headley Court, the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre. By acting as an extension to the rehabilitation process, Toe in the Watergives injured service personnel the chance to compete in sailing at a high level and to improve their self-confidence and outlook on life. Since its inception, Toe in the Waterhas used competitive sailing to re-inspire, re-engage and re-integrate profoundly and traumatically injured servicemen and women.
Racing on a Farr 52 yacht, donated to the charity ahead of last season, the Toe in the Water crew will be entering six events during the year including the RORC Easter Regatta, the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, the IRC National Championships, Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, the Dartmouth Royal Regatta and the Garmin Hamble Winter Big Boat Series. Toe in the Water was appointed as the official Charity Partner to Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week in 2011 and in this, their final year, will be not only competing but also organising a number of exciting events and fundraising activities throughout the prestigious regatta.
Last year Toe in the Water enjoyed much success on-board the Farr 52, regularly claiming a podium position throughout their racing season. These results were down to a combination of the dedicated volunteer crew and the determination of the injured servicemen and women who have the ability to reach that little bit further in challenging times and continually prove their worth. In line with the unique ethos of the charity, the Farr 52 has not been adapted in any way to accommodate the injuries of the service personnel, instead encouraging them to adapt to the challenge set before them. With medical support on hand both on and off the water, Toe in the Water is able to push participants beyond their comfort zones enabling them to recognise their own capabilities.
Since entering its first crew at Cowes Week in 2008, Toe in the Water has gone on to re-inspire almost 200 injured servicemen and women through competitive sailing. Many of Toe in the Water’s volunteers are military personnel who have served in the locations where the participants sustained their injuries. Captain Lloyd Hamilton MBE is the Director of Racing, as well as a serving officer in the Royal Engineers and will be returning for his fourth tour in Afghanistan at the end of the summer.
'I regularly see first-hand how competitive sailing works as a rehabilitation tool for injured service personnel, not least because it’s one of the few sports that enable those referred to compete with and against their able-bodied contemporaries on a level footing.
The return to a team environment, often for the first time since sustaining their injury is crucial to providing the injured crew with a safe but adrenalin fuelled environment where they can challenge themselves beyond their own expectations. We’re very much looking forward to another busy race programme and to some great competition on the water where the boys can really show what they’re made of.'
Round the world legends and Toe in the Water ambassadors, Dee Caffari MBE and Brian Thompson, will be on-board once again for a number of events in the calendar.
'An experience with Toe in the Water provides a key stepping stone in the rehabilitation journey and is all about moving on. To encourage progression and to ensure as many people as possible can participate, no individual is allowed to take part in more than three separate events. The aim is to inspire individuals so that they can go and achieve again; that may well be on the water but equally it could be a fresh challenge in a totally different environment. As an ambassador, I hope I am exempt from the three event rule because I am really looking forward to joining the guys again in 2013!' Brian said.
Dee Caffari MBE, who has just returned from leading an all-female team in the Sail Arabia – The Tour, added:
'Last year I was fortunate to have been involved in several Toe in the Water events and could really see the development of both the able-bodied volunteers and the injured crew. The drive and determination shown by the guys on-board was fantastic and, as with any competitive sport, forming a cohesive team is key to performance. It will be great to join the guys again and I have no doubt that the pressure will be on to improve on last years’ results'.
For more information about Toe in the Water contact info(@)toeinthewater.org or visit the Toe in the Water website.