Disabled crew offers another inspiring story

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 06/21/03
By Ray Pendleton

Did you know that this year's Transpacific Yacht Race with 59 entries, has the biggest fleet since 1985 when there were 64?

Perhaps that will explain how, after last week's column, when I called the Transpac entry Two Guys on the Edge a heartwarming story because it is being raced in an attempt to raise awareness and donations for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, that I would now like to add another boat under that heading.

With so many boats, there was bound to be more than one with a compelling story.

The boat is a Tripp 40 named B'Quest, and its crew -- the Challenged America Racing Team -- will consist of experienced sailors with quadriplegia, paraplegia, amputation, arthritis, blindness, diabetes, kidney disease, hearing impairment, and stroke and cancer survivors.

"From what I've been told, this is a first for such a crew having significant disabilities," said Urban Miyares, crewman and co-founder of Challenged America. "(But) racing in Transpac is no longer about us, but rather, about what is possible and what can be achieved."

Challenged America is a charitable, therapeutic and recreational rehabilitation sailing program for active adults and children with disabilities, as well as their loved ones, friends and supporters.

It was founded in 1990 by Miyares and Bob Hettiger, both disabled Vietnam veterans, and it is sponsored by the Disabled Businesspersons Association at San Diego State University, Interwork Institute.

Miyares is totally blind, but with more than 45 years of sailing and racing experience.

"I've had a stroke and some other things -- diabetes, kidney disease," Miyares said. "But I feel great!"

Hettiger on the other hand came back from Vietnam unharmed, only to fall victim to an auto accident that left him a quadriplegic.

More than 30 sailors from around North America vied for a crew position on B'Quest, but only six were selected as the core survivors of a two-year tryout and training program that included the last two Newport Beach to Ensenada, Mexico, races.

Along with Miyares and Hettiger, the crew will include Greg Cook, who has rheumatoid arthritis, Scott Meide, who lost his left arm in Vietnam, and Sam Gloor, a quadriplegic who recently qualified for the U.S. Paralympic Quad Rugby Team.

The skipper, Coast Guard veteran Josh Ross, does not have a disability.

"Eventually, I want to step off the boat," Ross said, "not because it's too much trouble, but because the others are almost ready to take care of themselves."

"We've been training for more than a year," Miyares pointed out, "and we've done some extensive and innovative modifications to B'Quest."

Some of those modifications include a motorized companionway elevator, a 6-way powered helm seat, slide benches below deck, unique cockpit seats for wheelchair users, and a number of enhancements to gear and equipment.

B'Quest started with Divisions 3 and 4 yesterday -- and this, Ross said, is only the beginning.

"Just to do it is our goal this time," he vowed, "and then the next time is to be competitive."

With some luck, B'Quest will finish the race around July 14 and I can't think of a better reason to be on Transpac Row than to give them an aloha greeting.

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