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Imagine how you'd feel if your very successful and comfortable life was suddenly devastated by a debilitating illness leaving you largely dependent on others for your everyday needs?

That's exactly what happened to well known local sailing identity, Clontarf resident Greg Hyde.

Photograph is a closeup of Greg Hyde sailing

Greg has been the Windsurfing World Champion, earned a plaque in Manly West Esplanade's walk of Olympians representing his country in Los Angeles in 1984, was the National 16ft skiff champion, and joint helm of Manly Yacht Club's winning entry "Cuckoo's Nest" in the storm ravaged 1993 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

Photograph of a full side on of Greg sailing

Thirteen years ago, Greg was cut down at the height of his sailing prowess by a rare and usually fatal form of encephalitis, subsequently he suffered epilepsy, and in 2008 had a stroke which resulted in partial right-sided paralysis, short-term memory loss, and speech difficulties.

Greg has shown tremendous courage overcoming his frustration and coming to terms with his current situation, and rather than adopt a" victim" mentality, has chosen to concentrate on becoming the best he can possibly be with what he's got, and in the process be an inspirational role model for others with disabilities.

Recently introduced to Sailability, a volunteer organisation that gives people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to experience "Freedom on the water," Greg has shown that mercifully he's lost none of his natural ability in the water sport he loves.

Through Sailablity Greg has been introduced to sailing the single seat 2.4m class of dinghy, an exhilarating and challenging experience for most able-bodied sailors!

Thrilled to be back at the helm of a lively craft, in April Greg attended a Paralympics training camp in Perth with 8 others trying for the place in the 2.4m dinghy class with the goal of representing Australia at sailing in the 2012 Paralympics games in London.

Greg has accomplished much in the last 6 months. Not only has he been selected for this elite squad, he has also obtained major sponsorship for a new 2.4m from Finland, courtesy of Windsurfer Australia, and much appreciated new sailing clothes from Gill (the 2.4m can be a very wet boat!)

Finding a sponsor for sails is now a top priority.

The new boat arrives in July, and will be kept with the Sailability NSW fleet of 2.4m on the hard stand at Crystal Bay, courtesy of the RPAYC.

A great deal of thought has gone into the configuration of the new boat with help from former windsurfer sparring partner and respected sailing coach Lachlan Gilbert.

"Although Greg's lost none of his natural ability, he's tremendously frustrated by his fluctuating physical and mental abilities and needs to work on his concentration and building stamina" explained Lachlan. "The new boat will be innovatively set up to take best advantage of what he CAN do,"

Physios and nutritionists have also been a great help with programs to build his technique, strength and fitness, both mental and physical for this challenging journey.

If Greg is to be successful, he will have to train on the water regularly, and this will need the committed help of a dedicated team of volunteers with some sailing or boat-handling experience.

Sailability NSW President  Allan Jones assisted by Pittwater and Manly volunteers including on water sparring partner, Peter Whalan, are training those donating their time, in rigging, launching, sailing the 2.4m and operating the chase boat.

Many are retirees who find that being involved is not only teaching them new skills, but giving them a renewed sense of purpose and pride.

However, if Greg is to fulfill his Paralympics dream more recruits are needed in "Greg's navy"!

Newport resident Barbara Kendall is Greg's rock, and co-ordinates his sailing program.

"I'm so proud of my brother and we're both touched and appreciative of the wonderful team of volunteers gathering around us" said Barbara Kendall.

The commitment is half a day once a week or whenever, starting at 9.30am at RPA on the Pittwater or Manly Yacht Club on Manly Cove.

Anyone who would like to find out more about  helping Greg, by sponsoring his new sails or donating their time should call Barbara Kendall on 0414 227 691 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering for Sailability, or know someone who would benefit from experiencing  "freedom on the water" call Pittwater: Allan Jones 9918 6539 or Manly: Eli Demeny: 9976 2747

 

 

Photograph of Greg Sailing on Pittwater with New Port in the background