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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, July 18, 2003

Disabled crew a Transpac first, but not the last

By Baxter Cepeda
Advertiser Staff Writer

Most of the crews that finished the 2,225-nautical mile 42nd Transpacific Yacht Race this week faced setbacks.

But for blind sailor Urban Miyares and most of the rest of the Challenged America boat, which became the first to cross the Pacific in a major race with a crew of disabled sailors, setbacks are a part of life.

"We were winners when we started," said Miyares in a press conference yesterday at Waikiki Yacht Club. "Our biggest challenge has always been getting into the race."

The crew of six, which had one non-disabled sailor, had to qualify for the race like any other boat.

Competition started long before Transpac qualifying for the Challenged America crew members, as 32 top disabled sailors from around the word vied for spots on the boat.

Miyares, a two-time disabled National Champion alpine skier who started sailing because it does not segregate, said they tried 12 years to get in the race.

It was worth the wait.

"It's wonderful to be included," said Miyares. "I couldn't be more excited.

"I thank Transpac for having no barriers or obstacles."

Miyares, a Vietnam veteran like many of his crew mates, said that their objective was to create opportunities for the next generation of disabled sailors.

"We are doing this for everyone," said Miyares.

Miyares' crew mate Scott Meide, a right arm amputee and a cancer survivor, among other disabilities, wants people to know that having a disability does not mean one cannot live life to its fullest.

"It's the way life is — sailing is the same thing," Meide said. "We just do it a little bit different,"

Differences included modifications that were made on the Challenged America boat, including a motorized elevator, special steering and cock-pit seats, and below deck adjustments to get around easier in the often-rough open ocean.

"We would love to build our own boat instead of modifying someone else's," said Miyares.

Miyares' dream boat would get plenty of use. There are 500 disabled sailors learning the ropes in hopes of becoming future members of Challenged America.

The current Challenged America crew will share every mile of their journey with the aspiring disabled sailors.

What will they tell them?

"Exciting," said Miyares. "It was just beautiful. The sea is just magnificent. Total freedom."

Most of the crew still are unsure whether they want to do it again. For Miyares there is no question.

"It's time for me to move aside and create other opportunities," he said.

Meide said that he would like to do it again but that the rigors are making him think twice.

"It took its toll," said Meide. "The watches got long and the off times were very short."

While most crews struggled with trash in the open ocean and differences of opinion, it was mostly smooth sailing for Challenged America.

"We all got along real well," said Meide. "After two weeks of being cooped up like that it's wonderful."

Meide added that the crew was quick to help one another out, including describing sunrises and sunsets to Miyares.

"These are exciting visual pictures in my mind," Miyares said. "They're my eyes — I'm their legs."

TRANSPAC NOTES: Division 2 Alta Vita of Francis Yacht Club won the overall title on corrected handicap time ... Division 1 Pegasus 77 of Waikiki Yacht Club had the fastest elapsed time, finishing in seven days, 16 hours, 31 minutes, 17 seconds ... Reinrag2 of Transpacific Yacht Club, Wild Thing of San Diego Yacht Club and Wind Dancer of Ventura Yacht Club won divisions three through five, respectively ... Illusion of St. Francis Yacht Club took the Cal-40 title ... Between the Sheets of Del Rey Yacht Club won the Aloha A division, while Barking Spider of Tradewinds Sailing Club took the Aloha B.