Kennedy defies cancer blow to compete in boat race

Senator Edward Kennedy took the helm of his sailboat Mya in a regatta, just a week after undergoing a brain biopsy that diagnosed him with cancer.

The 76-year-old liberal Massachusetts Democrat made good on a pledge last week by competing in the second half of the Figawi boat race between the island of Nantucket and Cape Cod.

He missed Saturday’s outbound leg but got up early yesterday, the US Memorial Day holiday, and took a ferry across Nantucket Sound to compete in the return leg.

Also aboard for the two-plus hour journey were his wife Vicki, Democratic senator Christopher Dodd, and relatives including sons Patrick and Edward Jr and stepdaughter Caroline Raclin.

“It couldn’t be a more wonderful day,” Mr Kennedy told several dozen well-wishers and a handful of reporters who greeted him dockside just down the street from his family’s holiday compound.

The senator said he relished the company of “great friends and family” while Mr Dodd, his closest friend in the Senate, and Mrs Kennedy nodded in agreement.

Neither Mr Kennedy nor his wife would discuss his upcoming treatment. Doctors are considering using chemotherapy, radiation or a combination to treat the tumour that triggered a seizure on May 17.

Treatment could start as early as this week.

Mr Kennedy planned to compete in the Figawi even after doctors determined last week that he suffered from a malignant brain tumour.

He has won the Figawi contest twice. In this race, Kennedy’s time was 1hr 54min, good for second place in his five-boat division. A total of 38 vessels competed in six divisions over the 19.7-mile course.

“He was at the helm the whole way, doing what he always does, guiding the boat to the head of the fleet,” said family friend David Nunes of Colorado, an associate who regularly races with the senator and was on the boat as a crew member.

After the race was over, the group sat at anchor off Hyannis Port for an hour before coming ashore.

Mr Kennedy has had a limited public schedule since getting out of Massachusetts General Hospital last Wednesday.

Besides skipping the first part of the regatta on Saturday, he also missed a commencement address he was due to deliver on Sunday at Wesleyan University. Instead, he asked Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama to address the graduates – including stepdaughter Caroline – at the Middletown, Connecticut, campus.

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