Sailing is out of the Paralympics but that's not stopping this 24-year-old sailor

For Delani Hulme-Lawrence, it's the young people she works with at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club that keep her going.

The 24-year-old sailor is out on the water every day, training and preparing for the upcoming Para World Sailing championships in Spain this summer.

"There are so many kids at the yacht club that don't fall into traditional sports and they love being on the water and the freedom and independence," Hulme-Lawrence said.

She teaches at the yacht club, as well as trains for her own races.

"This community, in particular here in Victoria, is one of the only places that I have found that's so opening and accommodating," she told CBC's Gregor Craigie.

"It encourages people to stay in the sport for life and you can come into it any shape, any size, any colour and any walk of life."

Taylor Roades

Hulme-Lawrence has been sailing since she was 12 years old, on lakes in landlocked Alberta.

She is an amputee and so finds some parts of competing against others more difficult — but other parts are easier.

"What I find challenging sailing against other competitors in the fleet is the upper strength and the speed required to pull your sails in and let them out and adjust controls," she said.

"Because I only have one hand, I'm quite a bit slower than other people."

She's on the water every day, though, which gives her an edge when it comes to tactics and strategy.

She sails in a boat that's geared toward people with varying abilities and is completely adaptable depending on the person's needs.  

"I drive with my feet so that it frees up steering with my hands," she said.

"You can adapt anything inside the boat to suit your needs."

Future of the sport

Sailing used to be part of the Paralympics but was removed from the Tokyo 2020 Games for failing to meet worldwide-reach criteria and won't be part of the 2024 Paris Games either.

But Steven McBride, the sailing program coordinator at the yacht club who coaches athletes including Hulme-Lawrence, hasn't ruled it out for the future.

Taylor Roades

"Hopefully, we're going to get reinstated and we want young athletes like Delani and others ready to step in and continue the great sailing tradition that we have in the Paralympics," McBride said.

"We have more medals in Paralympic sailing than we do in Olympic sailing."

For Hulme-Lawrence, she's taking it one day — and one race — at a time.

"You can go really far in this community and that's what has kept me going: Steve's encouragement, the co-workers that I have here, the competitors that I race against and the young athletes that I model for."