“I went where I would likely sail the most. I lived in my car and ate a lot of Cheerios for a couple of years.”
Canadian Tracy Schmitt is excited to be racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, as a first-time skipper in the SKUD18 class, apparently the largest class gathering outside a World Championship or Paralympic Games.
The 45-year-old started sailing at the age of seven, but it is only in the last two years that she has made the transition from recreational to performance racing.
“In 2012 I met Russell Phillips in San Diego in a Liberty. I got inspired to take the SKUD18 on as a campaign for Rio,” Schmitt said.
Phillips is the Australian President of the Hansa Class Association and a SKUD18 competitor.
The competitive spirit is not new to Schmitt. She previously competed in alpine skiing, winning bronze at the Para sport Provincials in Ontario, Canada.
“You have to give it your all. It has to be everything,” she said.
Her approach to her Rio 2016 campaign drove her to leave her job, sell everything she could not fit in her car and head south to Miami, Florida.
“I went where I would likely sail the most. I lived in my car and ate a lot of Cheerios for a couple of years.
“I sailed at Team Paradise, an international Paralympic sports club for sailors with disabilities and for sailors aspiring to be Paralympians or people who are showing potential who might want to try racing a 2.4mR or Sonar. Team Paradise offers that opportunity so I drove down there.
“Their Skud was very old so I was put in a 2.4m. With 24 lines it is a highly technical boat and being a four-way amputee, both my legs above the knee and missing one arm and only one finger on my right, it’s a very involved boat for me. Often the people with the high level disabilities can sail it, like minimally disabled. That’s who I compete against.
“I now know way more than I knew two years ago, but I still have a lot to learn,” Schmitt added.
Encouraged by how her sailing skills had progressed, Schmitt was determined to take the next step and make her way from Miami to Melbourne through the help of her friends. A successful pub night raised an unexpected but welcome USD 7,000 and Phillips organised a charter boat and connected her with a SKUD18 crew Akko van der Veen, the distributor for Liberty and SKUD18s in the Europe.
“We travel a fair bit to different events around the world and meet people. We encourage them to come out as often as they can to give them better competition and to give us more competition.
“I have sailed against Tracy before. She has good days and bad days. On a good day she is hard to beat,” Phillips acknowledged.
The ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne is where Schmitt is for first time racing the new design SKUD18 in the 10-boat fleet, the biggest seen outside of a World Championship or Paralympic Games.
She has set realistic expectations for her team’s likely performance, expecting the fleet will split into two with the top five using their Paralympic skills to lead while the other five, including her, fight it out for the minor placings.