Hartford sailor becomes first disabled winner at Cambs and Beds Regatta

KIRSTEN Pollock has made history by becoming the first disabled sailor to win the Cambs and Beds Regatta.

KIRSTEN Pollock has made history by becoming the first disabled sailor to win the Cambs and Beds Regatta.

The 30-year-old saw off competition from a fleet of more than 20 boats from sailing clubs across the two counties to guide her specially-designed Challenger to victory.

After finishing fifth the previous year, 30-year-old Pollock had the win in her sights from the start and topped the rankings over the three weekend races, edging out her Sailability team-mate Judi Figgures into second place.

“I’m really happy to have won, and to have become the first disabled person to have won the regatta,” said Pollock, who also sails for Hunts Sailing Club. “I knew that I had a good chance before the race, and the conditions certainly played into my hands. There was plenty of wind, and I was able to use it to my advantage – the first two races were fairly comfortable, but the third was a little closer.”

Pollock is already ranked in the top three in the country in the Challenger class, but said she felt that the win was an important one for her.

“It does feel like a bit of a breakthrough, and a move forward, to have beaten able-bodied sailors, but then you don’t have to be able-bodied to compete in the regatta, and this result has proven it. It’s a level playing field out there,” she said.

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Pollock developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy after a fall at the age of 21, meaning she has no movement in her legs and uses a wheelchair. She sits in the central hull of her trimaran Challenger, with the controls adapted to be within reach.

She first began sailing at the age of 14, and quickly found her calling, spending 10 months sailing round the world at the age of 20.

She sails and volunteers regularly with Sailability at Grafham Water, where she has been a member since moving to Huntingdonshire two years ago.

Pollock said: “Sailability is a great club to be part of, and it gives a lot of sporting opportunities to those who otherwise may not have them. In sailing I’ve had some good times, some bad times and some terrible times, especially when I sailed round the world, but I love the sport. Getting the chance to volunteer and encourage others into the sport is fantastic.”

Pollock will be in action at the UK national championships at Rutland in September, when she will hope to prove herself once again among the country’s top Challenger sailors.

She added: “I’ve got a lot of hard training ahead of me before the nationals come around, but I’m really looking forward to them already.”