Powerability - Powerboating for all


Image credit - Woolverstone Project

Making use of powerboats to get people of all abilities on the water is nothing new. But you may not have known that the RYA�s Powerability scheme now extends the accessibility of powerboat skippering to all by helping disabled boaters to gain RYA recognised powerboat training and certification.

The scheme was officially launched at TheYachtMarket.com Southampton Boat Show in September 2017. RYA Sailability Manager Joff McGill explained: �Although using powerboats to get disabled people on the water is already happening, this scheme acts a stepping stone for some and for others it�s a chance to gain a first RYA certificate�.

Since launching the programme is proving to be a great success with the RYA Sailability team already seeing a huge amount of interest.

Where it all began�

Image credit - Andrew Wolstenholme Corulam Wheelyboat V20s designer

Powerability was developed with Dart Sailability in Devon, who, six years ago, launched their own powerboat certification after recognising a gap in the potential for skill development in the young people and adults who sailed with them. And such has been the success of that programme, that Dart Sailability, led by Chief Power Instructor, Andrew Cushen, have worked closely with Rachel Andrews, RYA Chief Instructor Motor Cruising and Power, to roll the scheme out nationally.

As Rachel explains: �For many disabled people skippering a powerboat may not have been an option before as, for example, limited mobility might have meant they are unable to keep lookout around them or they might not have had the upper body strength or dexterity to operate the throttle and use the wheel at the same time.

�Powerability overcomes that by effectively making the skipper the manager of the boat. In much the same way that the captain of a container ship never touches the controls, a skipper can complete tasks themselves or clearly instruct crew to carry out actions enabling the safe travel and manoeuvring of a boat under power. �The Powerability scheme enables people to achieve an RYA certificate by recognising the skills they do have as a crew or as a helm, removing any barriers, to reinforce learning and achievement and build confidence on the water.�

So what�s it all about?

Powerability compliments and dovetails into the RYA Powerboat scheme at Level 1 with the syllabus covering everything from clothing and safety equipment, to getting started in a powerboat, developing crew skills and what it takes to be a helm.

Some 30 tasks are set out under these headings with Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates available. For each level a number of tasks must be completed and a minimum number of sessions attended. The aim is to encourage skill development and ongoing participation on a pathway into the rest of the RYA Powerboat Scheme. Rachel continued: �We wanted to make sure the syllabus included crew skills, such as coiling a rope or deploying a fender, as these can often get overlooked in their importance whereas in Powerability, through the helm�s command, these skills all contribute to if a boat can even move, so crew involvement can be crucial.�

The scheme is open to any organisation which is an RYA Training Centre recognised for powerboating, an accredited RYA Sailability site and the training must be delivered by an RYA qualified Powerboat Instructor.

What can Powerability achieve?

Dart�s Andrew Cushen doesn�t hesitate when asked that question - he estimates around 50 Dart Powerability certificates have been issued over the six years to students of widely varying disability and ages. One young person with learning and short-term memory difficulties has achieved his Powerboat Level 2, and become part of Dart Sailability�s safety crew. Some of their Sonar keelboat and Hansa sailors are also working towards their Powerboat Level 2 too. In addition Andrew has run Powerability training for other river users, who may be experienced powerboat drivers but who, through age, arthritis, injury or illness etc, want to make sure they are safe to continue using their boats.

Dart carries out their Powerability training in RIBs and dories as well as their specially designed duel control landing craft, which includes side loading and a hydraulic ramp at the front, to extend driving opportunities to motorised wheelchair users.

How to get involved

Image credit - Marcus Frisby

Whether you are a sailor or a centre you will be able to find everything you need to know about being involved in the Powerability scheme on the RYA Sailability website, including how to order logbooks and certificates.

Alternatively get in touch with a member of the RYA Sailability team who will be able to help, email sailability@rya.org.uk

Joff concludes: �Powerability is helping to break down any barriers that might exist and build a pathway into the rest of the RYA powerboat scheme.

�For many disabled people, learning to drive a powerboat may not have been an option before, but now there will be more places to learn which have a range of accessible boats available. It�s not just about getting on and off the boat that�s important but being able to have full control.�

If you�d like more information getting out on the water with a disability visit www.rya.org.uk/sailability