METLIFE Veterans J/22 Regatta Brings Together Service Members at the SAIL NEWPORT Volvo Ocean Race Stopover

The MetLife Veterans Regatta, a therapeutic event for veterans of active service duty, brought together 12 veterans from around the country for training and racing at the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover on May 14-15. Racing in Sail Newport's fleet of J/22s, the veterans' crews also included a representative of race teams Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Team Brunel, Dongfeng Race Team, AkzoNobel and Turn the Tide on Plastic. Inaugurated during the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race Newport stopover, it is the second time that MetLife and Sail Newport have partnered to host the regatta. Warrior Sailing, a program of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation led by Ralf Steitz, Corey Kapes and Ben Poucher, was also involved in recruiting and training sailors for the event. The Warrior Sailing program offers opportunities for veterans to experience life on the water despite their injuries. The Program has graduated more than 250 veterans since its first Basic Sailing Program in 2013. Adapting to sailing is easy for the veterans because of the teamwork required for success. "This group learns faster than any other group," says Hugh Freund, a 30-year-old coach of the Warrior Sailing Program. Freund was diagnosed with bone cancer and lost his leg while still a student. He competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games and won a silver medal as crew with Rick Doerr in the Sonar Class. "The veterans are used to working in small teams," says Freund. "They are used to problem solving and take accountability for their actions. We go out and practice for one day, come in, discuss what can be done better and the next day they go out and do it. It’s incredibly rewarding."

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