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1996 Paralympic medalist in Para sailing David Cook has passed away

by Sail Canada 18 Jan 23:30 PST
1996 Paralympic medalist in Para sailing David Cook © Sail Canada

It is with great sadness that Sail Canada has learned of the passing of 1996 Paralympic medalist in Para sailing David Cook from Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 14, 2022, at the age of 62.

David Cook, who was diagnosed at age 17 with a degenerative and incurable neurological disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, competed at the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta at which time Para sailing was a demonstration sport. In the Mixed Crewboat event, he won the silver medal along with Kenneth Kelly, John McRoberts and Kirk Westergaard.

A member of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, he discovered sailing two years after his diagnosis as some workmates were already involved in the sport. "After hearing their stories, I immediately began dreaming about sailing, and soon bought my own boat. I wanted to create my own life-long memories," said David Cook in his blog at "For four decades and counting, from age 20 to present, my passion, no, obsession in life was the sport and recreation of sailing."

In 2008, he was introduced to radio-controlled model sailboat racing. "This gave me a new lease on life," said David Cook. "Sailing gave me that ever so needed reason to live!"

Before his death, David Cook was working on his autobiography titled "Time Stops For No One" and the proceeds of the sales were to go to Muscular Dystrophy Canada as the primary beneficiary.

He was also the founder and manager of the Victoria Sailing Foundation, which aimed to support people with disabilities and build their confidence.

Prior to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, he was one of the torchbearers who carried the flame through Great Victoria.

Brian Todd, coach

"'Cookie or Cooker', as he was known to many. David was one of the drivers of the Skud 18 class in Canada. He had an unstoppable personality and was a fierce competitor. I had the pleasure of staying with David and Raewyn (his wife) while running Paralympic training camps in Victoria during the mid 2000s."

"Dave was an amazing inventor especially when it came to developing adaptations for his disabilities. He had an elevator he designed to access his workshop (not sure if it would have been government certified but it worked). As his disease progressed, he invented items to maintain his independence for eating and many tasks he undertook each day."

"His mind was always going at hyper speed with new ideas to make his boats go faster. As coaches, we worked to settle him down to work on one task at a time."

"There is a significant hole left in the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and remote-control sailing community with Dave's passing."

Steve McBride, coach

"Dave Cook was a legend and a great friend who inspired generations of sailors. He always brought out the best in people; always pushing others to be more, to do more. Sail on Dave."

John McRoberts, teammate at the 1996 Paralympic Games

"David is someone you will never forget. He affected so many people in so many ways. Rest in peace David!"

Karen O'Neill, CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee

"The Canadian Paralympic Committee is deeply saddened by the loss of David Cook and expresses its sincere condolences to all of David's family, friends, and members of the sailing world. A Paralympic medallist and a pioneer in the sport of Para sailing, David was a wonderful member of our Canadian Paralympic community for over 25 years. With his immense passion and dedication to sailing and desire to share the joy of the sport with others, he leaves behind an enduring legacy within Para sailing."

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