CLEAR LAKE -- A group of sailors from Clear Lake are preparing for the upcoming world sailing championships.
The name on their boat says a lot. The words BLIND AMBITION are painted on the side. Hearing from the sailors themselves, though, reveals so much more.
“I was born with my vision impairment and I always had a lot of people telling me what I couldn’t do; and, unfortunately I believed it for a long time,” said Karen Penrose.
Karen Penrose has been blind since birth.
“I grew up sailing,” said Howard Hughes. “It’s been a big part of my life. I enjoy it, always have. Losing my vision, I didn’t want to give it up completely.”
Howard Hughes’ condition just developed over the past several years, but now he and Karen are teammates on a competitive J-24 sailboat.
The two are paired with two other crew members, David Atkinson and Farley Fontenot, who have their full vision. They are in charge of giving directions that Karen and Howard carry out.
“You have to have teamwork,” said Hughes. “Communication is a big part of sailing.”
”You trust the people that you’re with,” said Penrose. “You trust your sighted guides. They’re the ones giving you directions.”
This four-person team of sailors is preparing for the upcoming World Blind Sailing Championships in Japan. Even though it wasn’t their original intent, Karen and Howard have become role models for others.
“Just cause you have an impairment or lose your vision, it doesn’t mean you have to give up everything,” said Hughes.
Karen loves her sailing experience and hopes others who are visually impaired follow her lead; but, she also knows this sport isn’t for everyone.
“Feeling that sense of independence, this is something a lot of sighted people would even want to do,” said Penrose.
This team will race in the World Blind Sailing Championships in late May.