Impossible Dream to Sail to Cuba
As the U.S. and Cuba break new ground in post-Cold-War relations, the catamaran, Impossible Dream is charting new territory in promoting universal design to improve accessibility for wheel-chair users. The 58-foot sailing vessel embarks on a nine-day voyage this weekend to compete in the Conch Republic Cup from Key West to Cuba, a popular sailboat race suspended in 2003, when relations between the neighboring nations were less cordial.
A six-person crew, three of whom are disabled sailors, will man the fully accessible sailboat. They will compete against a field of fully able-bodied crews on 50 or more vessels.
Deborah Mellen, founder of the Impossible Dream Project, hopes that this week’s voyage will highlight the need for universal design that can better enable the disabled, yet function well for the able-bodied. She believes that accessibility gains will be good for the Cuban people and for tourism worldwide.
“I’m proud that the Impossible Dream is helping to raise awareness of the needs of people with disabilities around the world,” Mellen said. “We are on an incredible journey on this unique vessel to discover new freedoms for the disabled and are pleased to be making this historic voyage in such an influential competition as the Conch Republic Cup.”
Mellen is partnering with Shake-a-Leg Miami on the Impossible Dream project, whose founder, Harry Horgan, will join the crew on the voyage to Cuba. "We have a tremendous opportunity on this trip with this fully accessible vessel to travel, break barriers, and share our message that a disability is not a burden; it is a challenge to overcome.” Horgan said.
Mellen, Horgan and other team members will meet with Cuban officials and local citizens who have disabilities when they visit Cuba. Their hope is that audiences will understand that universal design will greatly advance accessibility, and create functional and beneficial environments for the disabled and able-bodied.
The regatta kicks off January 28 near Key West Harbor with the Michele Geslin Memorial Cup and finishes the next day off Varadero Beach in Cuba. Buoy races will run off Varadero until February 1, when the Cuba Coast Challenge, from Varadero to Havana, will commence. Buoy races will resume off Havana February 3, with the final leg of the regatta, from Havana to Key West, beginning February 5. The race ends February 6 with an awards dinner at Dante's in Key West.
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