148 young people, aged between 8 and 15, came to the Mount Batten Watersports and Activities Centre from a number of Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall special schools on 5 October to take part in a watersports festival.

Amongst the activities were four RYA OnBoard sailing sessions, in which 16 groups in Hawk 20s learned about how exciting sailing can be. 

Amber Young, from Plymouth Woodland School was one of the many converts to sailing: “It was great! I want to get the telephone number of the centre so my mum can book some lessons.”

The RYA OnBoard Development Officer, Stuart Jones helped to create the event, and on the day was assisted by volunteers from Plymouth Youth Sailing and Wheels on Water as well as from all the schools involved:

“The weather was not ideal, but everyone entered into the spirit of the event,” he says: “For some of the young people this was the first time they have sailed, others have been practising during the summer for this. This was also the first time sailing for some of the adult helpers too. Now we have the enthusiasm from the young people and teachers, we need to make plans to put on some regular sessions.

Katy Wedgewood, Inclusive Schools Sports Coordinator, said: “The students came from many different schools, with a wide range of special educational needs, physical, sensory, learning and behavioural. This is a great opportunity for our children to experience an activity that is sensory and gives a great sense of freedom.

“For a number of these young people this is the first time they have ever seen Plymouth from the sea, which will give them a new perspective of our city.”

Sam Waites, Activities Manager at Mount Batten Centre added: “This was a fantastic event which demonstrated what can be achieved with multiple partners co-operating for the greater benefit of Plymouth children. It was inspiring to see so many children participating in water-based activities, which in some cases can be considered by society exclusive to able-bodied individuals. Everyone came away from the event thrilled and all were asking ‘when can we do it again?’ – so we look forward to putting on a similar event in 2013.

The schools taking part were Woodlands, Longcause, Mount Tamar, Downham, St Cleer Primary, Bickleigh Primary, Coombe Dean Secondary, Brook Breen, and Plymstock Secondary.