Student makes waves in adaptive sailing competition

Barbara Galinska

Barbara Galinska took on waves as high as 5 feet tall during the Independence Cup, a race held at Burnham Harbor for sailors who have disabilities.

Strong winds and big waves on a Chicago harbor didn’t make Barbara Galinska back down from a boat race this summer.

“They were the highest waves I had ever been in,” Galinska said.

She was up for the challenge. During race days, waves reached as high as 5 feet at Burnham Harbor on the Museum Campus, where the competition took place July 27–30.

“It was intense,” the business undergraduate said. “Those were conditions I had never sailed in before.”

But she came out on top, taking third place in the Independence Cup, a boat race sponsored by the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit for sailors who have disabilities.

“I was probably the shortest competitor,” Galinska said.

Born without a thigh on her left leg, the accounting major is 4 feet 2 inches tall, a detail that could limit her involvement in some sports, but not for sailing. She has found success through drive and determination.

At the Independence Cup, the 20-year-old was the youngest person racing, but she beat competitors from around the globe in regattas with a 2.4mR, a one-person boat.

“It’s all very exciting,” Galinska said. Mostly because getting to that level hasn’t been easy, she added.

She started sailing at age 12 and has raced for the past three years in team-person boats.

In November, she competed for the first time in full control of her boat, racing a 2.4mR, the same boat she used for the Independence Cup. In that competition, the U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship in Clearwater, Florida, she placed 12th.

“When I first started racing, I was way in the back. I lost every single race and I raced a lot,” she said. “But I loved sailing, the challenge and complexities of it, the support and communication with my team. Because of that, I kept sailing until I got to the [Independence Cup] — until I beat one boat and then I beat two boats.”

Thanks to the support she’s gotten from the organizations she races for — the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation and Midwest Open Racing Fleet — other competitors, and the sailing community, she’s climbed the competitive ladder. The experience has also helped her develop more than just a talent for doing well on water.

“Sailing has helped me build confidence,” Galinska said. “It’s helped with working with other people, it’s something you have to think about and work for.”

The experience can help her ride waves that could come her way this semester, too.

“I feel like I can say, ‘Hey, I can do anything else in life because I’ve sailed in big waves in a little boat,’” she said. “Any accounting test, class, is nothing. Bring it on, world!”

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