There's more to remote-control yacht racing than meets the eye.

It involves strict rules, boat-handling abilities, good reflexes and the skill of harnessing wind effectively — and Jarrod Hale does it all with just his mouth.

Jarrod, a tetraplegic, has limited use of his arms and shoulders, neck and head and no movement below his chest.

But Jarrod, from Waihi, prefers to concentrate on the things he can do. And he can race metre-long yachts.


Some years ago Jarrod started watching Tauranga Radio Sailing Club members who come from all over the region to race their yachts at Gilmour Reserve.

The guys befriended Jarrod, and David Hemsley from Katikati realised Jarrod was really interested in the sport.

''So I thought, 'what can we do for him?''' he says. ''I said to John Laker 'can we mount a transmitter on a bracket?' and it went from there.''

John took on the challenge and came up with a mark one version from a three-dimensional printer.

Considering Jarrod has movement only from the neck upwards, the contraption was designed so Jarrod can control a boat by remote with a fitting for his mouth.

Graham Roberts took on upgrades _ six in total. The bracket holds the transmitter which is fastened to the back of Jarrod's chair.

Jarrod controls the transmitter moving his mouth up for "sails out" and down for "sails in". Sideways movements turn the boat left and right.

''What he has achieved is just bloody amazing,'' David says.


''This guy is so onto it, he didn't even know how to sail when we met him. He can turn his chair around with his head while he is sailing.

''We sometimes give him a 20-second headstart and there are times he has beaten us all home. There was one day we gave him no leeway and he beat the lot of us. I said to him 'Jarrod, that deserves a beer' and Jarrod said he was going home to have one.

''It makes him very happy and when he comes second or third the smile on his face is worth a million dollars,'' says David.

Jarrod thinks the sport great. His carers help of course, but he sails his boat by himself.

''I enjoy it because I am limited in the activities I can do so it's something I can do. I used to be quite passionate about sports so it's nice to be back involved in sport with other people, being involved in a group. It's given me a bit of independence. I'm really grateful to the guys.''

The sport has become a passion for Jarrod.

''It's a really fun sport. You are competing and trying to improve and the wind is changeable as well as the conditions ... it's a lot harder for me and I am using mouth controls so there's a few barriers — I can't get up and down the lake and I'm a newbie to it as well.

''But they're blown away by how I can do it.''