Couple ready to set sail for Paralympics

Fundraiser being held Friday and Saturday at Fig Deli

John McRoberts and Jackie Gay will be flying the flag for Canada - literally - on their SKUD 18 keelboat during the sailing competition at the Paralympics in Rio in a few weeks. Before they leave

The Olympics may be over, but the Paralympics are just getting started, and a Saanich husband and wife are making one last fundraising push before setting sail in Rio.

Jackie Gay and John McRoberts have been raising money for their trip to Rio and are hosting one last drive at Fig Deli this Friday and Saturday before taking their boat to the Games. The couple is mere weeks away from the Paralympic sailing competition, where they will literally fly the flag for Canada.

“Every team has their country’s flag on the spinnaker,” said McRoberts. “We’re going to have the Canadian flag flying. It’s just a beautiful flag and people can feel proud to be Canadian as well.”

In preparation for the world-class event, the couple has been competing in other regattas around the world, including a string of competitions in Europe earlier this year.

“We got a bronze medal at Garda Olympic Week – that was a good test because all the top teams were there,” said Gay. “We obviously showed that we have podium potential.

“In the world championships in Holland, we were in podium position, but we had a bad last day. But generally, it went really well. It was a hard trip, but it was great.”

While McRoberts has previously sailed in the Paralympics, Rio marks Gay’s debut at the Games, as well as their first Paralympics as a husband-and-wife team.

“It’s an interesting combination between an old vet and a very excited and enthusiastic newbie,” said McRoberts. “I think together, we balance each other out – I can settle Jackie down and she can get me excited.”

Both Gay and McRoberts said Rio is going to test their collaborative sailing skills in what could be anyone’s contest. Add to that the pressure of being on the world’s stage and you have the makings for an intense competition.

“It’s just another regatta, but yet it’s the biggest sporting event in the world,” said McRoberts. “We just witnessed at the Olympics where a No. 1 ranked team goes in there and they do not perform, but they’ve been performing for the last three years. And then a 23rd ranked person, who has no expectations, comes in and has the event of their life.”

“It’s a very fluky venue, in terms of the wind, so it can be very challenging racing,” noted Gay. “There’s nothing certain about this competition, it could go all sorts of ways.”

With the Fig fundraiser, Gay and McRoberts will be showcasing their SKUD 18 keelboat and talking with attendees throughout both days, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will also be selling T-shirts and books and collecting donations for their trip.

“Yasser at the Fig has been a friend and a supporter of ours for a number of years,” said McRoberts. “The sense of community that I feel in his store is unmatched anywhere I’ve been in Victoria.”

They will also be using the fundraiser as an opportunity to engage others about the sport of sailing and showcase the amazing achievements that people with disabilities have made in athletics.

“We’re interested in just connecting with people as much as we can. It’s something that we want to share with others,” said Gay.

“It’s an opportunity for us to let the community know we have a unique, husband and wife team that is representing Victoria and Saanich, and it’s a way for us to create awareness for ourselves and also to help offset some costs that we have,” said McRoberts.

The Fig Deli is located at 1551 Cedar Hill Cross Rd.

 

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