Changing lives through sailing

Funding to reduce inequalities in sport is making watersports accessible for all

four sailors in a small keelboat out on the water

For many people access to sport or taking part in physical activity can be difficult. Whether it’s for physical, financial, or other reasons it can seem like the advantages of regular exercise or outdoor activity are off limits.

The pandemic has only worsened this situation, so the Sport England Tackling Inequalities Fund (The Together Fund) was set up to support the most vulnerable and at risk of inactivity due to the impact of Covid19.

So far, the RYA has allocated £285,000 of this National Lottery Funding directly to 18 Sailabilty and OnBoard venues around the UK. These organisations run projects that engage with low income, socio- economic groups, ethnically diverse communities, disabled people and those with long term health conditions.

Support through sailing

One of these was Cobnor Activities Centre Trust, an independent charity based in Chichester, West Sussex. Earlier this year it offered a bespoke programme of activities to Stone Pillow, a charity which helps homeless and vulnerable people to achieve independence and well being.

“Everybody has suffered but our clients really have been cut off from support networks, from services that they rely upon to help them through recovery. says Stone Pillow’s Debbie Jupe.

“Many have been been isolating in single bedrooms, so we were seeing escalating metal health issues. The partnership with Cobnor has given us an opportunity to offer them something different to do, something covid compliant which offers them an opportunity that most our clients would never have never have had which is to get on the water and enjoy the benefits of sailing which we know exist.

 “The most enthusiasm we have had has come from our recovery clients” Debbie continues. “They’re individuals who have chosen to take an abstinence based recovery pathway, they have had a history of abusing drugs or alcohol and they are staying within a service where they support each other”.

The activity was a hit with most of Stone Pillow’s attendees reporting increased levels of confidence, feelings of usefulness, optimism about the future and the ability to make decisions”.

The road to recovery

Antony is a Stone Pillow client and has found the sailing sessions have helped his wellbeing. “I’ve been addicted to certain things for 30 odd years so I’m in a residential rehab and I’ve got the opportunity to come sailing and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been good for my mental health and I hope to do it again.

“People wouldn’t get the opportunity if it wasn’t for programmes like this. My plans for the next couple of weeks are to stay sober, stay clean, continue with the programme, lots of therapy and group discissions and trying to rebuild my life”.

Debbie is hopeful that the courses have sown the seeds of passion for sailing. “Our clients are looking for activities to fill their day with really positive activities, sailing is exactly that. I hope some of them pick it up as a hobby for the rest of their lives.

Gary Palmer, Head of Cobor Outdoors Activity Trust says the funding has had a huge impact on the centre. “The funding from the RYA has enabled people from Stone Pillow to engage in an activity they would never have dreamt of or been able to access themselves within their challenging lives. It’s enabled us to open our doors to enhance our offer to people through sailing.

Read more more information on the next round funding here