Ame’s Army – Crowd Sourced Sponsorship With a Story. 1

We get a lot of emails and approaches from sailors around the world who are looking for sponsorship. We also come across a range of ‘crowd-sourced’ sponsorship schemes. The theory is that it is easier to raise a small amount of money from a large number of people in order to secure a budget. Some of these programs are for little known races in little known classes and have no core story for those outside of sailing to follow. Ame Barnbrook’s campaign is different.

Paralympic hopeful Ame has just launched ‘Ame’s Army’, a way for supporters to get involved in her goal to represent Australia at the 2012 Paralympic Games.

The remarkable 21 year old university graduate was born with Phocoamelia, meaning she has only the lower half of her left leg, a small foot and three toes – no other limbs. She uses her toes for eating, writing, playing the trumpet and fulfilling her passion for sailing. Barnbrook, who started sailing as a seven year old, could be the world’s most profoundly disabled sailor going for Paralympic selection in London 2012.

In a sport where private banks and luxury watch companies compete for attention with automakers to extend their brands into the lives of consumers, the human stories are often lost by the algorithms that count logos on screens for milliseconds. Sailing struggles to appeal to a wider audience partly because of a lack of diversity, which is why Ame’s campaign is so important.

Barnbrook has set big goals for herself :

“It’s about what I can do, not what I can’t do. My disability is continually judged before my abilities have been recognized – and I like to prove people wrong!”

Ame has already achieved notable sailing results, including fourth place at the 2009 IFDS World Championship in Singapore and third at Sail Melbourne, (Grade 1 Olympic and Paralympic Classes) with her crew Lindsay Mason. In January, 2010, the duo achieved second place in Australian Access Championship, a class sailed by able-bodied and disabled sailors.

Her choice of ‘weapon’ for the Games is the two-person SKUD, a fast skiff-like Australian designed boat sailed by both able-bodied and disabled sailors.

It’s not until you sit down with Ame’s team that you realise just how complex a campaign like this is. It’s not about ‘just getting on a plane’ – most modern day aircraft do not cater for people like Ame. A team of experts and an array of specialist equipment needs to be transported half way around the world – a world that is set up for the average and struggles with exceptions.

Ame Barnbrook’s campaign is a reality check. When she succeeds, she helps to reposition the sport of sailing as accessible and diverse. She helps to put into perspective the merits of spending tens of millions of dollars on a silver mug or racing a converted floating palace around a Caribbean island.

You can join Ame’s Army at