Hobie Sailor of the Month:
February 23 - March 2
Gene Hinkel of St. Petersburg, Fla. is a true pioneer in the area of adaptive aid designs for disabled sailing. On an international scale, Gene has made a tremendous impact on the growth of disabled sailing and the advancement of adaptive sailing techniques, such as the development of benches and seats for sailors to use.
To honor his overall contributions to the sport, the triplehanded division winner of the U.S. Disabled Championships is awarded the Gene Hinkel Trophy. The Sonar Class along with Ontario Yachts and Shumway Marine donated the Gene Hinkel Trophy to honor Gene’s achievements. The Hinkel Trophy join s the Goldman and Hovey Trophies that are awarded to the single and doublehanded winners at the U.S. Disabled Sailing Championships, an annual US SAILING event. At the 2010 U.S. Disabled Sailing Championships, Gene was able to present the trophy for the first time.
Gene became involved with disabled sailing in 1994 when he was named the chairman of the committee that provides oversight to the sailing centre at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club in Florida and he has never stopped. Gene serves as the technical advisor for the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS). He consults with classes on adaptive aids that can be used within class rules in both the Paralympic events and open regattas. In 1995, Gene was awarded the Gay S. Lynn Trophy for outstanding contribution to disabled sailing.
US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Paralympic Coach Betsy Alison said, "Gene is a dedicated sailor both on and off the water. His expertise in regatta management, understanding of adaptations for disabilities and a distinct love of the sport create a magical situation when they all come together. Kudos to Gene for all he does for the sailors and sailing alike."
When the Sonar was chosen as a demonstration sport in the 1996 Paralympic Games, Gene was asked to be the Bosun. His role was to inspect Sonars that broke down and replace any equipment. “I had never heard of the Paralympics. With boatbuilding behind me, it was simple to come up with what the sailors needed to level the field.” Gene became an International Measurer when IFDS adopted the Sonar as a Paralympic boat and was a Chief Measurer at the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition.
Hinkel said, “I have been lucky that I found disabled sailing or rather it found me. I think we should all look into ways to help a sport that transcends age and physical abilities the way sailing does.”