The sailing teams of Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) have been guests of Courageous Sailing since the early 1990s. SOMA begins weekly Wednesday practices shortly after Courageous opens for the season in May, using the Rhodes 19 fleet. Sailing is a “Unified Sport” in Special Olympics, meaning there are generally two athletes with intellectual disabilities as well as two coaches, called Unified partners, in each crew.
By late June each year, some fifteen or more teams from various parts of the state have honed their sailing and racing skills to compete in the Special Olympics Massachusetts Summer Games at MIT. Special Olympics sailors continue to practice at Courageous through September in preparation for the multi-state Rhode Island Special Olympics Invitational Regatta held at the Naval War College in Newport. Massachusetts sailors have won the gold in the top division most years.
The Special Olympics sailors progress from Level 1, where a partner skippers the boat over half the time and athletes work the sails, to Level 3, there are three athletes who race the boat and one Unified partner who may only advise on tactics and strategy. Many of the SOMA athletes who train here have progressed from their first sail ever to being competent and confident crew members and competitive skippers. SOMA sailors are excited about how self confident their new skills make them feel, and how much they enjoy sailing and the social aspects of participating in the program.