Sailing opportunities for people with disabilities in and around Lincolnshire have received a huge boost thanks to a £10,000 Sport England grant award.
Hykeham Sailability, based at Hykeham Sailing Club on Apex Lake, successfully applied for the grant to build a new pontoon as part of an ongoing project to enable more local people with disabilities to discover sailing after demand for sessions surpassed what the group could deliver with its old facilities.
The popular group, part of the national RYA Sailability programme that supports people with disabilities in learning to sail and sailing regularly, has enough volunteers to help sailors get into and out of their boats safely and support increased numbers and longer activity.
Now the new pontoon, scheduled to be in use by the start of May, means the group can expand what they do and buy new boats to get even more people on the water.
Geoff Woodthorpe, project leader and Hykeham Sailability bosun, explains: “Hykeham Sailability is very popular but the number of dinghies and disabled sailors who can sail at any one time has been limited by the size of our pontoon.
"It can only deal with one boat at a time and the demand for sailing cannot be satisfied because of these limitations. It has also resulted in sailors waiting to sail, therefore restricting the time they can actually spend afloat.
“The only way we can satisfy the demand, and deal with more boats and disabled sailors safely, is to install a bigger pontoon. A floating pontoon is necessary to enable our special Access dinghies to be launched and to allow wheelchair-bound sailors to be lifted safely into their boats by hoist.
“The larger pontoon means more disabled people will be able to sail and they get to spend longer sailing, enjoying more time to develop their skills and progress to a higher standard. There is also increased safety for sailors and volunteer helpers as well as providing greater dignity and convenience for the disabled users and their carers.
“The pontoon will allow Hykeham Sailability to take a big step from being a very enthusiastic and well supported charity, which has not been able to grow, to a well-equipped, competent and accommodating charity, which can satisfy with greater dignity and safety the needs of its sailors."
Hykeham Sailability’s own volunteers, along with others from Hykeham SC and the Lincoln and District Sailing Association, will assemble the pontoon and float it into position where it will be moored and ready for immediate use.
The total cost of the project is £14,800, with the rest of the funding being raised by the charity, including through events and donations from Rotary clubs and many other local organisations and individuals.
Keven Roberts, Hykeham Sailability Chairman, added: "Our principle is to welcome anyone with any disability. We want people to experience a relaxed, safe, friendly and enjoyable environment. The larger pontoon will allow us to achieve a quicker turn around when launching and retrieving boats and to obtain more boats as needed, therefore allowing more people to sail. We are very grateful to everyone who has supported us in achieving getting to this point."
Through RYA Sailability over 53,000 young people and adults with disabilities are introduced to sailing per year. Sailing is one of the very few sports in which able-bodied sailors and disabled sailors can participate on equal terms and Sailability continues to encourage and support people with disabilities to take up the sport and facilitate sites to develop sailing opportunities.
For more information about Hykeham Sailability visit www.hykehamsailability.com