Sailing Beyond the Boundaries: Interview with Chris Loscerbo

Tell me about yourself. Where are you from?

My name is Chris Loscerbo and I’m from Winnipeg, Manitoba. I was born in 1956 with an Italian father and Scottish mother. I live a wonderful life. I used to go skiing, leaving from Winnipeg and driving 12 hours to Lake Louise, Sunshine and Whistler. I sailed every weekend. For two summers I started racing on an 18 foot Soelcat. I then moved on to a C&C 24 and then a C&C 29. Later, I sailed with my former wife to the Bahamas. We trailered the boat to NorthFolk, Virginia and took the intercoastal waterways to Florida. From there we sailed down to the Florida keys. My former wife was pregnant at the time. The voyage took four months but then my pregnant wife had the baby. 

A year later I broke my neck. At that point I wasn’t competitive sailing, simply because I didn’t know it was possible. I moved from Winnipeg, MB to British Columbia but I was depressed. There was no sun in BC. I spoke with my Physiatrist and he asked me “What used to make you happy?”  I told him, sailing.

That’s when I was introduced to Martin 16 sailing…

“The Canadian designed and built Martin 16 is a boat that allows children and adults with physical disabilities the possibility of leaving their wheelchair or other mobility device and going sailing! Even individuals with weak arms or no use of their arms can sail independently using power assist technology.”

I tried to get very competitive. I can steer as a quadrepeligic. I can undo and trim sails. All quadrepegic can sail. There are boats out there that are designed specifically for that. I even went to the Olympic trials in Europe. I was showcasing the Martin16 with a spinnaker. I was the only one in a Martin there, there was another boat from spain. A Martin16 was a really good boat but I never won.Then I went on to the Paralympics and showcased the boat. There were a whole bunch of judges. It happened to be in the Atlantic ocean, with 6 foot waves. It was cold. 

The Australian Access Liberty boat won, I never did. Therefore I wasn’t approved for the Olympics.

When I got to British Columbia I travelled every morning, 1 hour to Victoria. I wanted to get to the water, to the boat. So I started my own club in Chemainus, BC. I fundraised 100,000 dollars and I used that money to buy three Martin16’s and one of the Australian boats, Access Liberty. We even received money for the club from McDonalds. I formed the sailing club for disabled sailing and the rest was history. 

Doctors are able to take people out sailing. Roughly 80-100 disabled people have been out sailing. Ladysmith Community Marina operated by the Ladysmith Maritime Society gave us a place to put the boats. 

I have travelled all over Canada competing in the Mobility Cup. The Sam Sullivan Trophy award has my name all over it.

Mobility Cup is a “regatta of possibility” where personal, social, geographic, technological and organizational barriers are challenged in the spirit of friendly competition.  It is international in scope, inviting people from around the globe to participate, for the purpose of excellence, discovery and learning.

The purpose of the Mobility Cup Regatta is to demonstrate that sailing is an inclusive, accessible and integrated sport/recreation available to all persons.  Our credo:  “ANYONE can sail independently regardless of his or her physical ability or disability”.

I also have a small business called BC Wheelchair Friendly Services Inc. It is a Mobile RV company that offers Wheelchair accessible rigs with lots of room inside. I’ve been from British Columbia to Nova Scotia and back.

How is your sailboat different in comparison to an average yacht?

My sailboat is controlled by two straws. One in which controls the helm and the other controls the sails, sheeting in and out. Personally, I always liked to helm. I’d much rather sit in the back steering. I can do both but would rather have an able-body person who is able to help me make fine adjustments on the sails. There are a lot of different ways to trim the sail and make sail changes. I’m not able to do little adjustments so that is why I like to get someone else who can make fine adjustments and tweak the sail for me. 

What you’re doing is incredibly amazing, what challenges have you had to overcome while learning how to sail?

When I started sailing again I was like a duck in water. I knew how to sail and nothing could stop me. The only major setback is that it takes a lot of time to get into the boat but once you’re in there, you can go all day. It’s really nice. 

Do you have any advice for someone who faces similar boundaries but would like to try sailing? 

Don’t be afraid, just go for it. It’s a wonderful life. It’s beautiful, you can sail for the rest of your life.