Meet a Member - Melvin Kinnear
Melvin was the 2010 Liberty World Champion (Full Servo Class) and this year is lining up to sail in the European Championships at Rutland Water. Melvin sails one of our Hansa Liberty sailing dinghys fitted with servo-assisted controls operated by a joystick. The boats are ideal for racing but due to Melvin's particular disability have a limiting factor that means he has particular difficulty trimming the sails for best speed and course. "The joystick controller allows for independent control of jib and main by using separate switches but this is a bit fiddly for me. Unfortunately I have very limited touch sensation in my hand so can't feel the switches and have to look away from the sails to see if I'd operated the switches correctly, this is really bad news when you're racing." Recently we've modified the joystick controller giving individual control of the sails via a 'sip and puff mechanism'. "I operate the sip and puff by gently blowing or sucking on a tube in my mouth and this in turn operates the jib servo motor." Melvin injured his spine in a fall from height in 1974 aged 17. Before the accident he'd been keen on athletics and archery formed a good part rehabilitation activities at the spinal unit. After discharge from hospital he was on the look out for another exciting sport or activity but at that time there was nothing available. He decided to concentrate on getting a job (spending time with Islington Council, amongst others) and trying to live as normal a life as possible. Melvin found that for literally decades there were very limited sport opportunities but since the internet things slowly started to change. There had been some pioneering individuals getting involved in more active sports such as sailing, skiing and scuba diving and openings started to spread, helped by support from initiatives like the Backup trust. Around 2004 Melvin joined Tideway Sailability and learned to sail the Liberty dinghy that was fitted with servo controls. Racing followed and he had early success in the Greenwich regatta and Access TT (Travelers Trophy) series. He went from strength to strength, ultimately competing in the World Championships when they were hosted at Rutland Water in 2010, taking the full servo title.