“It’s about growing sailing but growing it right.”
Sarah Sibley, Disability Development Officer (Central) is reflecting on Naidex 2017, where Sailability made a splash as a sport exhibiting in partnership with other charities.
Held over three days at the NEC in Birmingham in March, Naidex is the UK's largest disability and home care event, and Sarah was there to spread the word about sailing.
Attending exhibitions and events is nothing new for Sailability. But the way in which Naidex came about, and the outcomes from it, showcases another approach Sailability is taking to engage with people to bring them into our sport.
And it’s all about partnerships.
As Sarah explains: “Traditionally Sailability has worked by getting out there and telling as many people as possible why sailing is such a great sport to get in to and then telling them how they can do it, and this work is, of course, still going on.
“But, in addition, over the past couple of years we have started to work more closely with disabled charities at national level to get them excited about the possibilities of what sailing could do for the individuals they work with. Our aim is to then get groups from these charities into our clubs and centres at national and local level.
“It is taking a slightly different but more targeted, direct route to sources of people who could all benefit from getting involved in sailing. It takes time to nurture relationships, but those partnerships we have built so far have been very positive.”
Laying the foundations
The seeds of this more structured partnership approach were sown when Sailability was invited to attend the LimbPower Games at Stoke Mandeville for the first time in April 2015.
Sarah had just been tasked with liaising with two specific national organisations – LimbPower, which engages amputees and individuals with limb impairments in physical activity, sport and the arts, and Cerebral Palsy (CP) Sport.
Over the next two years, Sailability attended another two LimbPower events, for adults and juniors, and ran the indoor sailing activity. Not only was the indoor sailing very well received it gave Sarah the chance to network with a new audience of individuals, groups and charities.
One of these individuals was the CEO of the Douglas Bader Foundation (DBF), David Bickers, and it was through David that Sailability found itself exhibiting alongside DBF, LimbPower, Reach, Steps, the OHMI Trust and Arctic One at Naidex in March.
Sarah continues: “We all shared a stand invited by DBF under the tagline ‘Your opportunities are LIMBitless’. People were coming to the stand to find out about lower and upper limb health and were leaving with information on how to go sailing.
“One of the biggest things for me from Naidex was the number of people who could already sail that came to the stand. There were people saying they used to sail and windsurf before their illness or injury and wanted to know if they still could. Of course the answer was ‘Yes!’ and that anything is possible.”
Growing the roots
It isn’t a new thing for Sailability to work with other charities, support organisations and rehab units, and many Sailability clubs and centres have excellent relationships with such groups at local branch level, delivering regular sailing activity for them.
Now it is about adding a bit more structure and co-ordination so the national charities, that some Sailability sites might even already work with locally, are aware of the opportunities nationwide. This helps us to get more groups from these charities and organisations sailing at more clubs and centres across the country.
The DBF is a great example of this. Through Sarah, David Bickers was introduced to Stuart Lund at Tideway Sailability in London, and in April the Bader Braves, the part of the DBF that specifically supports children with limb loss and other physical disabilities, enjoyed the first Bader Braves Sailing Day at Tideway at Surrey Docks.
Charley Bickers, Douglas Bader’s grandson, was one of those who attended the day.
He said: “It was a huge success and the perfect introduction to sailing as the boats are specifically designed so that they are stable and the simplified controls enable almost anyone to get straight out and to have a go. We were so lucky with the weather and very impressed with how quickly the kids picked it up.
“I’d like to thank all at Tideway Sailability who made sure the whole day went swimmingly! The plastic duck race was such a fun way to end our first ever Bader Braves Sailing Day. We are sure it won’t be the last.”
Sarah is currently working on delivering three similar projects for LimbPower in the Midlands and London while exploring opportunities with the other Naidex charities, including Steps, who work with those whose lives are affected by childhood lower limb conditions, and Reach, who support children with upper limb differences.
Meanwhile, Sailability will be continuing its network building, and engaging with new organisations and groups to partner with, including at The Mobility Roadshow, which takes place at NAEC Stoneleigh in Warwickshire on 1-3 June.
Sarah concludes: “We are trying to build on a lot of the fantastic work that already goes on across the country. We all know what sailing can achieve. Now it is about getting the message out there through effective national, regional and local partnerships, to help more of our clubs and centres capitalise on the opportunities to not only get more individuals sailing with them but their families and friends too.”
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