CHICAGO (CBS) — The waves of Lake Michigan can be an obstacle for some, but for others, they can be a challenge worth conquering.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Vince Gerasole took us inside the world of sailing – and found that a physical disability can’t keep some remarkable men on shore.
It was another day on the open waters of Lake Michigan when Gerasole visited, but some sailors who use wheelchairs were tackling challenges beyond wind and waves.
“Once you’re in the boats, you do forget that you’re disabled,” said Gary Pierce of Hebron, Indiana.
Pierce and Patrick Lo Duca left their wheelchairs on the shore, and used something called a transfer box to slide on board. They buckled into a stationary seat and then left Burnham Harbor to set sail.
“Being out on the water gives you a sense of freedom and it really lifts your spirit,” said Lo Duca, of the Lakeview neighborhood.
“I knew sailboat racing existed, but I didn’t know disabled sailboat racing existed,” Pierce said. “And I was hooked.”
Pierce and Lo Duca are a veteran team, partners for several years now. This weekend, the local pair will compete against 50 sailors with disabilities from across the globe, coming to Chicago for the U.S. Sailing Independence Cup.
An able-bodied assistant is typically on board for emergencies, but for the most part, the sailors are on their own.
“The seat kind of hangs onto you, and then you can focus on trimming the sails and driving the boat,” Lo Duca said.
Both men learned to sail through the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation, which owns the boats and sponsors training. Each man knew how to focus on surmounting a challenge.
“I was born with spina bifida, I walked with crutches for over 30 years,” said Lo Duca.
“From my bottom rib down, I’m paralyzed,” Pierce said.
“Sailing was completely different for me,” Lo Duca went on. “It was like speaking a different language.”
And it’s a language they have both mastered.
The Judd Goldman Independence Cup gets under way at 11 a.m. Friday at Burnham Harbor and runs through Sunday.