Providers of activity have a clear duty of care to keep those involved in the activity safe. People of all ages, with a wide range of impairments go sailing.


The equipment to keep disabled people safe, and the techniques you use to recover them from a boat or from the water may vary as a result. It is important to consider:

  • The person
  • The situation
  • The staff / volunteers supporting the activity

Leading to:

  • A decision or series of decisions


Safety decisions

The Person

The person going sailing knows themselves, what they can and can’t do, how they function and react. The club or centre and its staff and volunteers know about sailing. A conversation[1] between both parties will provide all the information needed to make good decisions about safety.

The person, the sailor, is at the heart of the conversation and every effort should be made to include them however difficult communication may prove to be. If needs be, and if the person agrees, you may choose to have a conversation with others who know the person well.

The situation

Any assessment has to take into account where you are boating, the type of activity you are engaged in and the conditions on the day. Consider:

  • The sailing area and the conditions on the day
  • The nature of the activity and the boats / equipment being used
  • The organisations’ scope of responsibility, liability and any constraints e.g. insurance

Staff / Volunteers

While one person may make the decision whether the activity goes ahead and what resources are needed to ensure any activity is safe, there will be a number of staff and / or volunteers involved in helping with the delivery of the activity. Consider:

  • The competence and experience of the staff and volunteers supporting the activity and their familiarity with the equipment being used,

  • The questions they have and the training they need,
  • Who needs to know about the conversation with the sailor and decisions made – it’s a balance between discussing needs in a private environment and sharing information on a ‘need to know basis’.


The process leads to a decision that both sailor and competent person are comfortable with on whether to sail or not, and the equipment and resources needed to deliver a safe activity.


Get the choice of personal flotation right each time a person goes afloat

Next: personal flotation
A systematic approach to safety

An overview of the key elements of safety systems


Providers of activity have a clear duty of care to keep those involved in the activity safe. People of all ages, with a wide range of impairments go sailing. It is important to consider the person, the situation and the staff / volunteers involved before making safety decisions.

Personal flotation

It is important to get the choice of personal flotation device right each time a person goes afloat, particularly for people who may not be able to actively participate in their own self-righting if they were to end up in the water.

Strapping and harnesses

Strapping and other equipment are used for several reasons including to maintain posture and improve control of sails and steering. Straps and harnesses can be used by a person day to day (for example, in a wheelchair) or as a specific part of sailing equipment.

Self righting boats

Self-righting means different things for different vessels. Experience shows self-righting boats can and do get ‘knocked down’ or capsize, increasing the risk of inversion and entrapment. There are known examples where through a variety of factors they have subsequently inverted, including with the keel or weighted centre board retracted.

Adaptations to boats

Any modifications that deviate from the original design specification may alter the stability characteristics of that vessel and access to the full range of controls (steering and sails).

Recovering boats

When towing vessels participants usually remain in the boat. The seating arrangements in some vessels used for disabled people, and participants’ own limited mobility, may make it harder for the crew to stay out of the way of a tow rope, particularly if multiple vessels are being towed

Recovering people

Explore equipment like slings or wet nets, the importance for having a plan for individuals who may not be able to fully help themselves and the role really good communication plays

Seating and posture

Seating and posture are important for both personal safety and the ability to take an active part in sailing.