CRAB and AYC produce smiles for disabled sailors

| June 4, 2017
Rams Head

Not long ago, CRAB Executive Director Paul “Bo” Bollinger Jr. was told by one of his captains about a woman with disabilities who was sailing on one of the nonprofit’s boats. In the Chesapeake Bay, she turned to the captain and said, “I want you to know this is the farthest I’ve been from my wheelchair and the memories that put me in it.”

In 2016, Bollinger noticed a scared, crying young man who was with the Maryland School for the Blind. He simply feared being on a boat for the first time. But he went out on the boat and, well, “When he came back he was flat-out giddy,” Bollinger said. “It was incredible. Now that’s what I like to see.”

CRAB, or Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating, and Annapolis Yacht Club will host the annual CRAB Cup on Saturday, June 17 at 9 a.m. A post-race barbecue and awards presentation will follow the regatta.

Bollinger said CRAB is “very fortunate” for its partnership with AYC. “(The club) does a fantastic job with its Race Committee, and they make everyone feel like a member,” he said. “That’s very enjoyable.”

The regatta will be comprised of six boats and 12 sailors who suffer from developmental and physical disabilities. The winner takes home the coveted Don Backe Trophy, named in honor of the founder of CRAB.

Backe was an avid sailor who was involved in an automobile accident in 1989 and was left paralyzed. After Backe was convinced by a friend to return to sailing, Bollinger said the CRAB founder realized there is therapeutic value to the sport.

A benefit of giving people living with disabilities — particularly wounded and recovering warriors — the opportunity to convalesce through sailing, according to Bollinger, is they are placed in an environment where teamwork is necessary to see positive results — much like their time in the military. Also, events meant to help Wounded Warriors often leave them as members of an audience and not physical participants.

“They really are excited about it,” he said. “They feel the movement of the boat — they’re controlling the boat and they’re pitching in and working together.”

Volunteerism is a substantial aspect of CRAB’s existence. Bollinger said 75 volunteers assisted during the 2016 CRAB Cup, and he is always recruiting volunteer skippers. “It’s very rewarding,” he said. “We couldn’t operate without those volunteers. They’re the linchpin for the organization.”

This year, Bollinger is hoping to attract one AYC member per CRAB Cup boat to serve as crew. With six boats and two disabled sailors per boat, Bollinger said a Club member would have an opportunity to sail with people who really appreciate them.

“Members can see firsthand what our specials guests can do and what they are capable of doing,” he said. “It just gives you a thrill for what you’ve done and what you’re contributing.”

Among other ways in which people can support CRAB is through financial contributions or the donations of used sailboats or powerboats. Each is tax-deductible. Click here to view the many ways you can support CRAB.

For more information regarding the 2017 CRAB Cup, contact Bollinger at [email protected] or 410-626-0273.

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