Figawi 2013, to be held May 25-27, will welcome some special heroes to this year’s iconic Cape Cod sailing race from Hyannis to Nantucket. A team of 3 “wounded warrior” sailors—some of them amputees—will be among the racing crew. The servicemen hail from across the country and will be joined by 2 other champion disabled sailors aboard the 54’ Jeanneau racer “Free Rein”.
The Wounded Warrior Sailing Team was brought together by Nantucket Holidays for Heroes, a 501 c-3 organization based on Nantucket, whose mission is to recognize and honor wounded veterans and their families by providing holiday experiences on Nantucket and scholarships for retraining.
Among the veterans on the team are Wellesley’s Jake Murphy, an all-star athlete at Wellesley High School who was recruited to play lacrosse at West Point. In 2011, Jake was assigned a platoon of 40 soldiers who he was in charge of and deployed to Afghanistan with. Four months into the deployment Jake was injured in a blast from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). As a result, he lost both of his legs and went into a coma for a month. He had to learn how to use prosthetics and to cope with a traumatic brain injury.
Twenty-seven year old Kyle Matthew Cornwell was raised in Chico, California. He enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school and served as a Medic for 6 years. During his second tour of Iraq he was struck by an IED just outside of Fallujah. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost his vision in his right eye. He now suffers from intense migraines, facial paralysis, and nerve and ligament damage throughout his entire body. He has become the General Manger of a fitness center in California and works with rehab patients suffering from similar injuries.
Twenty-nine year old Shawn Patrick Casey of California was deployed to Iraq to train Iraqi Police in anticipation of the U.S. troops’ withdrawal. He spent over 300 days on missions outside the wire in the Rasheed district of Baghad. In 2008 he ruptured a disk resulting in nerve damage. Not wanting to leave his squad, he continued to conduct missions in pain for another 8 months until he sneezed one day and pieces of the ruptured disk shifted against his nerve bundle. He returned home in November of 2008. He has had one surgery and is awaiting another. He will live with permanent back damage and pain, but is currently going to Butte College working towards a nursing degree.
The veterans will be joined by accomplished disabled sailors Donna DeMarest (paralyzed from her lower chest to her feet from a car accident) and Captain Mike Strahle, who became a quadriplegic after breaking his neck skiing at Squaw Valley in 1985.
Strahle has become an expert quadriplegic sailor and will captain the crew. He is the founder and Executive Director of Wounded Warrior Sailing, a 501-C-3 organization with a mission of providing access to sailing for the disabled (especially Wounded Warriors). Strahle invented adaptations to help disabled sailors sail after becoming disabled and since dreamed of starting a Disabled Sailing Program so others like him could realize that “sailing is still an option.” Now he run an active Disabled Sailing Training Program, where he teaches the disabled to sail. After one week, his clients become Sailboat Racers.
The Figawi Race, now with over 250 entrants, has certainly become one of the premier sailboat races on the east coast and is recognized internationally. For more information on Figawi, CLICK HERE. For more information on Nantucket Holiday for Heroes, CLICK HERE.
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