Oak Park native with visual impairment to compete in the U.S. Para Sailing Championship

The 22-year-old, who will be competing in the Independence Cup beginning Friday, says she doesn’t let her disability get in the way of her love of sailing.

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Jasmin Washington on a boat in a striped shirt and blue life vest

Jasmin Washington says she hopes to go pro in competitive sailing and participate in the Paralympics or Blind Sailing World Championship.

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When Jasmin Washington sets sail at the Independence Cup on Friday — a regatta for sailors with disabilities at Burnham Harbor — the 22-year-old Oak Park native hopes to score yet another first-place finish.

“I stick to the motto that I can do anything sighted people can do, I just need to modify it a bit,” said Washington, who is visually impaired.

Earlier this summer, Washington and her team took first place at the Robie Pierce Regatta in Rye, New York.

“I’m very excited,” Washington said. “I’m just coming off of a win back in June, and I’m trying not to get too confident, but it’s hard to push it down.”

The 2022 Independence Cup is a national competition held since 1986 that gives sailors with disabilities across the U.S. a chance to compete in races. The event will include 36 sailors from 14 yacht clubs competing with adaptive boats. The sailors will work alone, in pairs or a team of three.

Washington will compete in the double-handed division race with her teammate, Bonnie Everhart of Arlington Heights, who both sail for the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation.

They’ll be piloting a 20-foot adaptive boat that includes rebound steering, which allows blind sailors set a straight course on the open water by using bungee cords and other devices to let a sailor feel through tension how far off center they’re steering.

Washington says she’s always been drawn to boats, but it was a chance encounter in 2017 at the Jackson Park Outer Harbor that got her into competitive sailing. She was fishing with her uncle when she got to talking with members of the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation, which provides sailing lessons to people with disabilities.

“They asked me if I wanted to come down and do a lesson, so I went and did the lesson and never looked back,” Washington said.

The foundation was started in 1990 by the family of Justin “Judd” Goldman, a disabled competitive sailor who had a 58-year career in sailing races, to give people with disabilities a sport to participate in with the instruction programs they provide.

Washington said she hopes to be good enough one day to compete at a pro level in the sport and eventually learn to command sailboats that have not been adapted for people with disabilities.

“I feel like if I’m going to get serious with this sport, I have to learn on boats that aren’t meant for us,” she said.

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