Chris Selway: from bikes to Blokarts
Eight years after a motorbike crash left Chris Selway paralysed from the ribs down, he is now one of the country's top Blokart racers. Here he tells how this rather inclusive sport fulfils a need for speed and a thirst to compete.
In my second year of teaching at a village primary school, I decided to spend my summer half-term at the Isle of Man for the TT-Races. As an avid biker, the chance was one I couldn't miss.
On the very day I arrived (the infamous 'Mad Sunday') a simple, stupid lapse of concentration led to me being thrown from my bike into a whirl of noise and pain.
The moment I stopped sliding I knew that I had broken my back and that I would never walk again. Then I passed out.
The next six months were very tough. After nine full weeks of lying in a bed, staring at the ceiling at Salisbury's Spinal Treatment Centre, I started rehabilitation; eventually leaving hospital for a new, accessible home that December.
In January, I went back to work part-time. It was challenging, but the staff and students were welcoming, adaptations had been made to the building and I was getting used to teaching from a wheelchair.
However, my wife could tell that I was having trouble coping with my new, more sedentary lifestyle. So she packed me off to Keswick for a Backup Trust Multi-Activity Course.
The Backup Trust show people with spinal cord injuries that you are more limited by your attitude to life than your physical condition.
During that week, we rambled over hills and flew along zip-wires and I started to feel more positive about what could be achieved.
One of the activities offered was completely new to me; Blokart sailing. I was told that a Blokart is a type of mini-landyacht that you steer with your hands and that they are very good fun when it is windy. An environmentally friendly go-kart, if you like.
As only hands are needed for Blokart sailing, I decided to give it a shot.
My fellow Backup participants and I arrived at a disused airfield with a good 20+mph breeze blowing. I was helped into the three-wheeled kart, which was fitted with a sail to suit the wind speed. Within 5 minutes of having been shown the ropes, I was hooked!
We whizzed around the course giggling like children and soon enough the impromptu racing started. They had to prise me out of the kart at the end of the session; it was the most fun I had enjoyed for a very long time and most definitely the highlight of my week.
But that wasn't the end of my love affair with Blokart sailing.
When I got home, I picked up an ex-demo Blokart. I sailed it occasionally over the next few years; until I found out about the British Land Speedsailing Association. They are keen to promote Blokart sailing among disabled people, because of how inclusive it is. I have since become an instructor.
After a while, I started taking part in some racing events and found, to my surprise, that I was not too bad at it.
This year, conditions have been great for Blokart-sailing and I have practised more than ever. I won two rounds of the National B-Series of races resoundingly and managed to attain overall first place in my class against a fleet of 17 able-bodied pilots.
I am now hoping to get some sponsorship to help fund a trip to Nevada, USA, where the Blokart World Championships are to be held next Easter. (It's also where the Blokart speed-record was set at an astonishing 62.5MPH!).
The level of competition will be very high, but it will be great to take part in such a large international event against able-bodied sailors and to compete on a level playing field with them.