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Feb. 15, 2005, 9:32PM

Faces In The Crowd

Morvillo enjoys 'sport of feeling'

Blind champion wants to recruit others into sailing

Chronicle Correspondent

As a blind teenager growing up in Rhode Island, Vince Morvillo could not ignore the fact that he was different, but he refused to let his disability get in the way of his dreams.

Morvillo, 60, a resident of South Shore Harbour in League City, began taking sailing lessons near his home when he was 13.

This past August, he won the Ensign National Sailing Championship in Newport, R.I. He was the only blind skipper among 41 teams that competed in the eight-race series.

The coastline where Morvillo competed was just four miles from the place where he learned to sail as a teenager.

"I always believed I could do it," he said. "But after I won, it was still pretty hard to believe."

Morvillo founded a blind sailing group in Kemah in the late 1970s, but said he has had trouble getting more people to join the group.

"It's difficult to transport blind people to Kemah," he said.

He said that the available training resources and the experience of sailing are well worth the trip to the city.

"This particular area is blessed with some really wonderful trainers," Morvillo said. "We have one sailor who competes in the Americas Cup and two sailors who won the silver medal in the Olympics. They're excited about working with vision-impaired people."

Morvillo sailed in his first national championship regatta in 1988. He has taken his sailing team to the World Blind Sailing Championship in Aukland, New Zealand, where they won a silver medal in 1992. In 1997, his team won the gold medal at the same championship, held in Portsmouth, England.

A blind sailing team consists of two blind sailors, one of whom is the skipper, and another to trim the sails and man the foredeck. Two sighted sailors are also on each team to give verbal instructions and to assist with race strategy and tactics.

Morvillo's boat has an audible compass that helps keep him pointed in the right direction.

"Sailing is not a difficult sport; it's a sport of feeling," Morvillo said.

He and his team will return to the Ensign National Championship in Nyack, N.Y. this year to defend their title as national champions. They will compete in the 2006 World Championship for Blind Sailors in Newport, where they are also defending champions.

Morvillo has owned Sea Lake Yachts in Kemah for 20 years. He moved from Friendswood to South Shore Harbour with his wife, Margaretta, 1 1/2 years ago. The couple has two grown daughters: Kathleen Colditz of Dallas and Christine Lusk of Pearland.

When he is not working or sailing, Morvillo speaks to rehabilitation groups, corporations and parents of disabled children about caring for or working with the disabled.

"I work a lot with kids," he said. "I want to help (parents) understand how they can best help their children. My mother is the reason I can do the things I'm doing today."

Morvillo also enjoys building furniture.

"It's all part of my guiding philosophy," he said. "A lot of the work that I do is about learning how you can do things. I have my own way of doing things.

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