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Back to the ArchivesJune 24, 1999

Nevada land sailors love a good strong wind

STAGECOACH -- Every breath of wind brought excited chatter and a dusting of fine silt across the playa. Several land sailers lay on their sides nearby, one wheel high in the air. Anticipation was high. Most of the group gathered on the dry lake bed near Stagecoach had never land sailed before. The dozen people included three in wheelchairs, two with prostheses and only three experienced land sailors.

Land sailing is a little-known sport outside of the Western United States. A land sailer consists of a large sail attached to a three-wheeled metal frame that supports a seat for the driver and sometimes a passenger. Also known as dirt boats, the most common land sailers are roughly 12 feet long and 8 feet wide, and they travel with wind power.

Out on the playa, it was easy to forget about disabilities. Within minutes of getting a steady wind, there were five land sailers skimming across the dried mud of the Carson Sink. The only difference in abilities was experience.

Those who have never done any sailing before went out with a partner or got instruction from someone driving alongside on an all terrain vehicle.

"It's like chess," said Tom Donohoe, an experienced land and water sailor. "You can learn the moves in a few minutes, but it takes a lifetime to master it."

Within half an hour of the wind kicking up, the fledgling land sailors were chasing each other back and forth across the playa and throwing rooster tails of dust into the air as they skidded around turns. Sean Nelson had never done any sailing when he climbed into a rig. Despite having cerebral palsy, Nelson said he learned quickly to handle the land sailer and spent most of the afternoon on his own.

"Basically Joe told me what to do, and I did it," Nelson said, referring to Joe Bohl, who organized the trip.

Bohl races dirt boats competitively, and recently placed in the top 10 at the America's Land Sailing Cup Regatta near the Ivanpah Valley south of Las Vegas. He started land sailing seven years ago after a friend took him out on Washoe Lake. Bohl was hooked immediately and began working on adapting a hand control for the steering.

Land sailers are typically guided by a simple foot control. Bohl, who has used a wheelchair for 12 years, started by clamping an extension to the steering controls. He now has hand controls that are custom-made for his needs. Bohl put the trip together after a call from Reiny Moeller, who organizes excursions for international tourists. Moeller, an amputee, specializes in setting up what she calls adventure tours for people with and without disabilities.

Moeller is currently on a three-week tour of the West with Mike Pecker of Germany. It was his first experience land sailing. After returning to the camp he could not help but grin.

"There's nothing like this in Germany," he said.

Although the trip provided an opportunity for people with disabilities to learn a new sport, there was less focus on ability, or the lack thereof, than on simply having a good time.

"I could talk about how much freedom it gives me, about the level playing field, and all that," said Robert Deseruisseaux.

"The fact is it's fun. It fills that need for speed."

Deseruisseaux knows about speed. While waiting for the wind, he made several runs across the lake bed in his Ford Mustang at over 130 mph.

We be sorry to note that we do not know the above article's authors name! We have been searching for the writer and for more info on this exciting sport as we want to do it! We recently found this site that sells the equipment for Land Sailing:  Blokart Let us know if you find info on this sport.

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Associated Press & Las Vegas Review-Journal