RVYC’s husband and wife Paralympians sail for Rio

Sailors looking for a podium finish on the world stage

The Royal Victoria Yacht Club’s John McRoberts and Jackie Gay are heading south to Rio with their SKUD 18 keelboat for the sailing competition at the Paralympics

Jacob Zinn

Black Press

The Olympics may be over, but the Paralympics are just getting started, and a husband and wife have their sights – and sails – set for Rio.

Jackie Gay and John McRoberts, who sail from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, have been fundraising for their trip and hosted one last drive at Fig Deli last weekend before taking their boat to the Games’ Paralympic sailing competition, where they will literally fly the flag for Canada.

“Every team has their country’s flag on the spinnaker,” McRoberts said.

“We’re going to have the Canadian flag flying. It’s just a beautiful flag and people can feel proud to be Canadian as well.”

In preparation for the world-class event, the couple has been competing in other regattas around the world, including a string of competitions in Europe earlier this year.

“We got a bronze medal at Garda Olympic Week – that was a good test because all the top teams were there,” Gay said. “We obviously showed that we have podium potential.

“In the world championships in Holland, we were in podium position, but we had a bad last day. But generally, it went really well. It was a hard trip, but it was great.”

While McRoberts has previously sailed in the Paralympics, Rio marks Gay’s debut at the Games, as well as their first Paralympics as a husband-and-wife team.

“It’s an interesting combination between and old vet and a very excited and enthusiastic newbie,” said McRoberts.

“I think together, we balance each other out – I can settle Jackie down and she can get me excited.”

Both Gay and McRoberts said Rio is going to test their collaborative sailing skills in what could be anyone’s contest. Add to that the pressure of being on the world’s stage and you have the makings for an intense competition.

“It’s just another regatta, but yet it’s the biggest sporting event in the world,” said McRoberts. “We just witnessed at the Olympics where a No. 1-ranked team goes in there and they do not perform, but they’ve been performing for the last three years. And then a 23rd-ranked person, who has no expectations, comes in and has the event of their life.”

“It’s a very fluky venue, in terms of the wind, so it can be very challenging racing,” noted Gay. “There’s nothing certain about this competition, it could go all sorts of ways.”

Through their fundraising, Gay and McRoberts have also engaged others about the sport of sailing and showcase the amazing achievements that people with disabilities have made in athletics.

“We’re interested in just connecting with people as much as we can. It’s something that we want to share with others,” said Gay.

“It’s an opportunity for us to let the community know we have a unique, husband-and-wife team that is representing Victoria and Saanich, and it’s a way for us to create awareness for ourselves and also to help offset some costs that we have,” said McRoberts.