Below is the article written by Annapolis Yacht Club for the 2017 CRAB Cup Regatta. Original article here.

A highlight on the annual regatta calendar for AYC Race Committee and staff is the CRAB Cup, which has been hosted at the Club since its inception in 1999. This year, the regatta was comprised of six boats and 12 sailors who suffer from developmental or physical disabilities.

The winner takes home the coveted Don Backe Trophy, named in honor of the founder of Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (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 he 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 Paul “Bo” Bollinger, Executive Director of CRAB, 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.”

For years the regatta was raced on four Freedom 20s, but this year CRAB was excited to introduce two new Beneteau First 22As specifically designed for adaptive sailing and a welcome addition to CRAB’s local fleet based at Sandy Point State Park.

An important part of the competition is the volunteer base that comes out to assist in the success of the regatta, both shore-side and on the water. While the skipper and first mate of each boat are disabled, for safety reasons an able-bodied sailor is always aboard just in case assistance is needed, though their role has been on an “as needed” basis. This year, CRAB reached out to AYC to recruit members with a racing background to fulfill the able-bodied requirement for each boat and also to offer input into race tactics so there’s an educational component to the competition.

After experiencing his first CRAB Cup in 2016, Scott Gitchell, who co-owns the J/105 Tenacious with his brother Carl, jumped in with both feet and has been volunteering for CRAB intermittently since last June, including diving on the bottoms of the boats to make sure they were ready to race. Scott reached out to fellow J/105 owners and crew at AYC and all six boats had the benefit of local knowledge on board.

Longtime CRAB Cup PRO Chip Thayer ran two races in the morning and another two after a lunch break ashore before sending the sailors in to enjoy a post-race celebration and awards presentation under the tent at the AYC Sailing Center.  Thayer rounded out his RC team with DRO P/C Peter Gordon, Joan Thayer, Juliet Thompson, Bill Yockey, and Jack Lynch, who has been involved with the event since it first kicked off.

First- and second-place trophies were awarded in the Freedom 20 class and first place was handed out in the Beneteau First 22A class. First in the Freedom Class was first-time CRAB Cup participant and AYC member Jim Hayes with his crew of Jim & Bonnie Urban. Second place was long-time CRAB participant Rob Klein with crew Julie Dorsette aboard J/105 Mirage with helmsman Fredrik Salvesen.

Congratulations to skipper Lance Hinrichs with returning crew John Tarrant, who took first place in the new Beneteau class with J/105 Firebrand owner Jon Slabaugh.

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