Stories

Maureen McKinnon

Maureen was the first star of Who Says I Can’t TV.

Day 1 of shooting was about Maureen’s back story (no pun intended). She talked on camera about how she got hurt (broke her back) and what life and recovery were like right after. Things were really tough for her. She lost her job and kind of lost her way. Someone really pushed her to try to sail and that was the ticket. We also got to see her house and how it has been modified for her. She has an elevator and the kitchen has a lot of cool adjustments. We met her kids including her son who had a very serious brain tumor at the age of 2. He is now 4 and is finally able to walk and run again but still has some brain damage from the tumor. Day 2 was down at the water and on the boats. For this part the Today Show crew shadowed us the entire day. We did some more interviews by the water to hear about Maureen getting this job and how she teaches disabled people to sail. She talked about her campaign to win gold in Beijing and is on that track again for London 2012. Then Maureen and I and some cameras went out for a sail in one of the Sonar 23’s. Same boats they race in the Olympics. I am comfortable sailing as I did it growing up and continue to sail an 18-foot family boat but I have never raced any boat before. I had to adjust to these boats as they feel very different from mine. And I had to figure out how to move fast in the boat as I do not wear my leg in this kind of activity. Maureen leaves her chair on the dock and just uses her arms to move herself from side to side in the boat. Sometimes she gets down on the floor and just runs the jib and main sheets. I got about an hour to get used to the boat and then it was time to race. We were each going to be in a Sonar with 1 crew assist and 1 camera. The other cameras and Today Show were in the chase boat. The wind was brisk from the east and there were white caps on the whole harbor. A simple course was set with two marks for us to go around. It was a little hard to get the race started as we kept wandering a bit at first but finally we got a good start and were off. I felt good handling my boat and had a great crew guy who was an all-american sailor in college. He ran the sheets while I skippered. He had a constant stream of advice which was a huge help. I had Maureen at the first mark and it was very exciting because we were both maneuvering a lot and the boats were very close to each other. To the second mark was straight down wind. She tried to block my wind and we did a typical (but not very nice) move in sailing of asserting our rights as the leeward boat. We started to shove her towards the pier. She was unflappable and managed a very tricky move I still don’t understand and flew by me to beat me to the mark. But hey, Mrs Gold Medal only beat me by about 3 feet so I felt pretty good.

Who Says Maureen McKinnon Can’t Sail (part I)

Who Says Maureen McKinnon Can’t Sail (part II)

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