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Sailors braced for Swiss contest

August 12, 2003
East Anglian Daily Times

A TEAM of disabled sailors from Suffolk and Essex will be representing Great Britain at a European competition in Geneva next month .

The six have only been sailing for at the most five years and last year won a clutch of trophies in their first ever national competition season.

They are all members of the Woolverstone Project, a charitable trust created 10 years ago by the Royal Harwich Yacht Club to meet a demand from people with physical and sensory disabilities to experience sailing.

Going to Geneva will be brothers John Aldridge, 45, the team captain, and Clive Aldridge, 53, both from Maldon, Essex.

John has suffered from numerous strokes and now has muscular dystrophy. He has won numerous trophies in national competitions despite never having sailed before joining the project.

His brother, Clive, lost both legs at the age of 36 in an IRA bomb in May 1984 while serving with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in Northern Ireland.

Clive said being part of the Woolverstone project had given him confidence: "I also get a lot of pleasure [from sailing]. I don't think I would have sailed if it hadn't been for the bomb."

Ipswich teenager Sam Honour, 13, suffers from Aspergers syndrome and has been sailing with the project for about three years. He has also won many racing events since joining.

Chris Atkin, 57, from the Stowmarket area is the oldest member of the team and is confined to a wheelchair following a severe spinal cord injury. He is the only member of the team to have sailed before his injury.

The two remaining members of the team are from the Bury St Edmunds area. Robin Penny, 41, is an instructor with the project, who suffers from cerebellum atrophy, and Jeanette Weaver, 38, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and has learned to sail in the last two years.

The team only heard two weeks ago that they had been selected to represent the country at the first ever European championships for access dinghies.

Running the charity costs about £30,000 a year, said former Suffolk chief constable Tony Coe, who is chairman of the trust's council. He said the charity received no regular funding and had to raise all its money itself each year.

To get the team to Geneva, the trust approached the Port of Felixstowe, which promised the £2,500 cost of travel to the competition.

Trustee and governor of the project Johnty Dickinson said: "This is a very generous donation and has been welcomed with enormous gratitude by the sailors and members of the project, for without this sponsorship it is possible that attendance at the international meeting would never have been possible."

The competition at Thonon-les-Baix, Geneva, will be held from September 19 to 21.

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