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BVI Sailors Head to Greece for Special Olympics Summer Games 2011

These are proud times for BVI Water Sports Centre directors, Colin Bramble and his wife Alison. February marked the six-year anniversary of their sailing program on Tortola and they celebrated this by unveiling a series of six, first issue, BVI stamps with the Queen's insignia highlighting their Sailability BVI program. This is the only program of its kind outside of the United States and United Kingdom that specifically deals with sailors challenged by various disabilities. Famed British quadriplegic sailor Geoff Holt flew in specifically to encourage the program and acknowledge his image on three of the stamps – a tribute to his 2010 solo trans-Atlantic sail to the BVI, the very place a tragic injury left him paralyzed in 1984, when he was in his twenties.

Two of the young Sailability BVI sailors featured on the stamps, Glenford Gordon and Lenford Pope, will join teammates Delray Gordon and Akeem David for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens held June 25th to July 4th.

"This is really huge for us," Alison explained. "We are competing against giants with teams representing the US, UK, China and Australia."

This is the only Special Olympics program that includes sailing as a sport in the Caribbean and Latin America and is considered the largest sporting event worldwide for 2011.

The Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who had a vision: to include athletes with intellectual disabilities in a major sporting event. She foresaw this competition as a platform for these athletes to defend their special abilities and gain both acceptance and confidence. Now 7,500 athletes from 185 nations compete in 22 Olympic type sports. The BVI team is comprised of the four Sailability BVI sailors who range in age from 16 to 20 years and two 'unified partners', youth teammates Elsa Meyers and Jaye Noel, who will assist in some of the competition classes on 420 sailboats.

Jane Bakewell is a freelance writer and lover of the sea who has made the BVI her home since 1994.

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