Chesil Sailability celebrating and moving forward

A club with more plans after celebrating its tenth anniversary.
31 Jan 24
An older female and older male sailing a Hawk on the open sea, smiling at the camera

“Sailing is something I never dreamt I would ever do, and wouldn't do now if it wasn't for Chesil Sailability.”

Chesil Sailability was founded in 2013, inspired by the 2012 Paralympics, so 2023 was a time for people like this sailor with a long-term illness to reflect on an amazing journey and to celebrate ten years of this much-loved club. The club’s first sailing session in July 2013 took place with two borrowed Hansa dinghies and four sailors with disabilities. Today it has nine sailing boats, a core of 80 sailors and their carers, and a lot of volunteers. 

Now the journey continues, with the acquisition of a new Wheelyboat and safety boat and plans to bring on-water activity to even more people with disabilities.

The club has purchased the Coulam Wheelyboat 17 as a result of significant support from the Wheelyboat Trust, some funding of its own and generous amounts from the Alice Ellen Cooper Dean Charitable Foundation, the Bruce Wake Charitable Trust, the RYA Foundation and the Dorset Nature, Art and Wellbeing Community Fund. The Wheelyboat has a 5.45m long bow ramp allowing people with disabilities, particularly wheelchair users, to get onboard directly (rather than being hoisted), and it is also set up so that a wheelchair user can drive it.  

Introducing Powerability

Powerability enables people with disabilities to experience, and also drive, a powerboat, and this year the club is introducing it alongside its Sailability operation. Currently researching other Wheelyboat users, the team is working out its standard operating and safety procedures prior to training its volunteers in April and starting activity in early summer. Existing members are already interested, and the team is confident that there will be more interest from individuals and groups once the project is established.  

The Wheelyboat project will provide:

  • An additional club activity, taking people with disabilities out for journeys round the harbour.
  • Motor boat driver training for people with disabilities (and the team is working with the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre to enable them to take RYA powerboat qualifications too).
  • Increased on-water capacity and another option for existing regular sailing sessions.

It will also complement the operations of the M V Freedom, a ten-metre motor catamaran that provides access to the sea for people with disabilities from Weymouth harbour.

Plans for 2024

Trustee Hugh de Iongh describes the plans for the coming season: “We have been able to replace our old safety boat (which didn’t work properly after two years out of the water during the pandemic) with help from the Dorset Health Trust charity, some other funders and our own reserves. This Ribcraft boat is faster and slightly bigger, and better suited for safety cover in the harbour, so we’re looking forward to using it this year. It will allow us to trial an adapted performance dinghy, the RS Venture Connect, owned by the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre, so that our sailors can experience higher level dinghy sailing. 

“And of course we’re continuing to run our Tuesday afternoon member sailing and Thursday morning group sailing sessions for daycare centres, adults with learning difficulties and people learning life skills. This involves our brilliant, flexible group of committed volunteers. We’re at capacity and can’t ask more of them – but we’re always looking for more volunteers that we can expand what we do in the future.”

Sailability is a major part of the RYA’s Together on Water strategy, supporting accessible sailing for all.  Whether your club/group is  a Sailability site or not,  your RYA regional team is there to help you ensure that everyone has chance to access our sports.