Special Athletes Set Sail For Finish Line

Special athletes are on the Coast, racing after the title of best sailor. Twenty-seven teams from four states are competing in the Special Olympics Southeastern Sailing Regatta in Ocean Springs. For some athletes, this race has turned into a family affair.

John Hunter waited all morning Friday for the winds to pick up on Ocean Springs' Front Beach. By noon, Mother Nature finally delivered.

Hunter is Sara's partner. She's a Special Olympian from North Carolina, who's about to experience her first Sailing Regatta.

"What I liked most about sailing is meeting new people. I don't get nervous," Sarah Hunter said.

That's because Sara has dad by her side. Dad, John Hunter, is also pairing up with his son, Bradford, in the next race.

"Oh it's fun. I enjoy it and I get to take my son and daughter out and they get to learn more about sailing and meeting friends they've seen in years past," John Hunter said.

"I like being with dad and having fun and winning," Bradford Hunter said.

Stacey Perry and Todd Ornstein are a brother-and-sister team from Ocean Springs. They agree the competition gives families time to bond.

"We work well together. It's a team. We don't fight. We just yell and get upset with each other, but she corrects me," Todd Ornstein said.

"He speaks my language, and if we are able to metal together and qualify for world games, it will be a real achievement, a family achievement," Stacey Perry said.

As they race for the finish line, the athletes say sharing the thrill of the competition makes it even more special.

"Do your best and whatever place you come in, it's fair, and it's fun sailing," Todd said.

The Sailing Regatta ends Saturday night with an awards presentation and closing ceremonies. The winners will go on to the national competition in Iowa. The World Games will be held in China in 2007.

By: Trang Pham-Bui