Disabled dingy sailor second best
BALLINA man Chris Cook has finished runner-up in the World Championships for Disabled Dinghy Sailing in England.
In the closest possible finish, Mr Cook finished one point behind winner Magali Moraines, of France, the current European champion.
Indicative of their dominance was the fact that third-placed Barry Coates, of the Gold Coast, was 16 points further back.
Mr Cook competed in the Access Liberty class, which is the top tier for the world championships.
The next step up from the world titles is the Paralympics.
Of the conditions for the five-day event, Mr Cook said: “We had everything. It ranged from light, medium to strong.
“On the heaviest day, I got two thirds. If one had been a first, I would have won the title.”
Mr Cook has been sailing since his teenage years. “I used to live on a yacht for 15 years and cruise up and down the coast,” he said.
But a back injury from a skateboard mishap when he was 21 caught up with him, and he couldn’t go cruising any more.
Mr Cook is well-known locally for his efforts in establishing Sailability Northern Rivers andorganising sailing days for disabled people and their families.
The group sails on Lake Ainsworth at Lennox Head on the second and fourth Sundays from October to April.
Sailability Northern Rivers has about 20 members, but Mr Cook would like to see more disabled people and their families get involved.
He said some people worried about the safety aspects, but he said Lake Ainsworth was anextremely safe venue.
And, he adds proudly, novices are taught by one of the world’s best disabled sailors – himself.
Mr Cook said Sailability also catered for people without disabilities, but who might have a problem that stops them sailing competitively at a non-disabled level.
“It’s not so much whether a person is disabled, it’s more that if they can’t sail normally at a club level, for example, if the person has an age-related problem,” he said.
This year is the second world titles in a row that Mr Cook has finished second.
However, that placing was by default. He was fourth before two disqualifications lifted him to second.
“I didn’t feel that I earned it,” he said. “But this one I did it on blood, sweat and tears.”
His goal now is to go one better – to win the title when it is held in Sydney in 2012.
Mr Cook paid tribute to those who helped him get to England – friends and family, sponsor Northern Rivers Surgical Supplies, and his coach and helper, Bill Heuchmer.