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Former University Centre South Devon student sets sail on adventures 

Sailing is a challenging environment but for a former University Centre South Devon student it’s even more demanding. 

Steve Palmer, 41, from Portland in Dorset is a double amputee. A Lance Corporal of the 28 Royal Engineers, Steve lost both legs as a result of stepping on an improvised explosive device in Helman, Afghanistan, in 2010. 

During his rehab Steve tried lots of different sports including sailing with charity Toe in the Water. They use sail racing to get injured service personnel into sport and learning how to adapt to life after life-changing injuries.  

“Sailing offers a unique way of doing physical and mental care, it could be called sneaky physiotherapy,” said Steve. “I still use it in this way, but in a different focus.  

“I certainly find sailing very freeing, while having to adapt to different situations on the water – I don’t feel I do anything overly different to a person with legs. My boat is not adapted in any way, and this has its own challenges.” 

Up until 2016 Steve set his sights on the Paralympics in three-person sailing and then coached sailing on the Isle of Wight.  He decided to return to education, studying a foundation degree in Yacht Operations at University Centre South Devon.  

“I took lots away from the degree, certainly learning new skills academically, and having the opportunity to engage with the wider maritime community,” he said. 

“All the tutors I had the privilege of working with were great and gave me the opportunity to explore different angles to the subject matter. Also, the support hub team were fantastic in aiding my development and my writing.” 

Steve, who learnt to sail as a child but only started sailing full time after losing his legs, has sailed more than 10,000 nautical miles in the last year – solo – in his Moody 31 called Neruni.  

He started by sailing around Britain, across to Iceland, then across the North Atlantic to Canada and down the east coast of Canada – and he’s still sailing.  

“I have visited and seen some fantastic places and sights – 24hr daylight, being in the Arctic Circle, orcas swimming behind the boat and hearing them talk, witnessing the pure power of the wind while hurricanes and Force 12 storms passed overhead,” Steve continued.  

“Sailing solo has its own challenges, like getting rest, whilst working on the boat and cooking. It adds another dimension when having no legs – however, I don’t believe it has held me back.  

“It can be lonely at times, I catch myself talking to nobody or a pod of dolphins, which isn’t crazy at all! I plan to keep going and enjoying the experience and adventure.” 

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