▲ Competitors racing sailing dinghies off the coast of Gimnyeong in June. Photo courtesy Korea Disabled Yacht Federation
The fog around Gimnyeong was thick enough that when throwing a stone into the sea, you could watch it disappear into the white before hearing it splash somewhere beyond. It was the sort of fog you don’t want to sail into. Twenty-five people — half of whom were beginners — planned not only to sail into it, they were there to race.
The races, held June 18 through 20 at Gimnyeong’s Jeju International Yacht School, marked the first of an annual sailing competition set up and funded by the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Sailing Association for the Disabled. The competitors came from the Korean mainland, specifically from Busan, Gyeongnam, Chungnam and Gyeonggi, and arrived Friday (June 18) for registration followed by a practice run the same day. The following morning, the competition began with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m., followed by three sets of races. Two more races were scheduled for Sunday, but one was cancelled due to fog and the other was shortened, also due to the fog. At 4 p.m. Sunday, awards were distributed to the competitors during the closing ceremony.
First prize was taken by Jo Soon Man, who has three years of sailing experience under his belt and is director of Korea’s Sailing Association for the Disabled. Ranking, Jo explained, was awarded according to who had the lowest total points after all four sets of races were finished. The scores given were one point for first place, two for second place and so on.
Jo said that the event will now be held annually at the Gimnyeong International Yacht School, but also said that the facilities there are not as well-suited to some people with disabilities as are facilities in Busan. Getting in and out of the boats posed challenges for the participants at Gimnyeong, whereas Busan has facilities that make such maneuvers easier.
The purpose of the competition, besides the joy of sailing, was four-fold, Jo said. It is hoped that by having the competition, increased competitive skills will be cultivated in the competitors, that yachting for disabled people will be promoted, that awareness of marine sports for both the disabled able-bodied will increase, and lastly, that the social perspective on disabled people will be improved, by demonstrating their competence in these activities.
Despite the fog and the inexperience of a number of competitors, there were no mishaps during the race.
Jo also said that he and five other competitors in the event (Pak Peom Joon, Eem Young Ho, Song Ho Geun, Jo Yong Peom and Gang Cheon Shik) would train together on the mainland from July 5 through 16 in preparation for an international competition taking place in the Netherlands.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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