Paralympics push fits round cheering duties

By Amelia Wade

Rick Dodson.
Rick Dodson.

After a hard day of training on the water, 1995 Team New Zealand strategist Rick Dodson puts his feet up with a few cold ones and watches his old crew fly around the America's Cup course.

The multiple sclerosis sufferer is in New York training and competing with the hope of making a sailing spot at the 2016 Paralympics alongside his teammates David Barnes, also a sufferer, and Andrew May. Between them, the team have one of the best sailing resumés in the world.

Dodson, who's won the America's Cup twice, was diagnosed in 1997 after his eyesight started deteriorating. He remembers the day well because it was the same day Diana, Princess of Wales, died.

More than 15 years on, he's aiming for gold in the Sonar class.

"We want to show people multiple sclerosis is not the end - you can live with it and even go back to sailing. And we want to win."

Dodson, who talks with a slur, said Barnes' condition is ever so slightly worse than his and they both tire easily. Before they set off, both had their eyesight surgically repaired.

But now they're just getting on with things. "We both talk and walk like we're drunk, but that's just life."

Barnes has competed in six America's Cup campaigns, including as skipper of the 1988 "Big Boat" challenge in San Diego.

May, who lost limbs in a traffic accident, has sailed in two Paralympic events.

The Kiwi Gold Sailing team are in Rochester, New York, to prepare for the Sonar Open World Championships next week. Last month, they competed in the Sonar World Championships in Ireland, their first time in the boat, and came eighth.

They have also watched every America's Cup race and cheered the team on. "It works out perfectly. We spend the day training then head down to the yacht club, have a few beers and watch the races."

In the lead-up to the Rio Paralympics, the team have a string of regattas and competitions in countries around the world, including France, the US, Brazil and Australia.

And they're funding much of it themselves.

However, Dodson's old sailing contacts have generously stepped up and helped out. Businessmen Sir Michael Fay and Neville Crichton are big supporters of Kiwi Gold Sailing's goals and have contributed to the campaign.

In May, more than $320,000 was raised for the team at a black-tie fundraiser that included Sir Russell Coutts and Grant Dalton, the chief executives of rivals Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand.

Even some of the current crews have donated their services - coach Joey Allan, who was with Dodson in 1995 and 2000, has pitched in whenever he's had some downtime.

"He said, 'Whatever you need, I'm there for you'," Dodson said.

"They're all awesome. It's really amazing how these guys are able to drill during the Cup, then get back to New Zealand and be there for us."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 31 Aug 2014 18:07:49 Processing Time: 996ms