With Scottish Disability Sport Week nearing the end for 2023, now is a great chance to celebrate the transformative impact sport can have on people’s lives.
There’s perhaps no better example than 21 year-old Rory McKinna, who had no idea where sailing would take him when he first got aboard an accessible Hansa dinghy at Clyde Cruising Club eight years ago.
Since then, Rory has gone from strength to strength in his racing journey, humbly accruing various Hansa 303 accolades, competing on the international circuit, as well as holding several young sportsperson awards.
He was also the proud winner of the pilot RYA Sailability series in 2022, which was designed to offer more opportunities for people with disabilities to get involved in entry-level competition outside of club racing.
Reflecting on his first time getting afloat on Bardowie Loch back in his teens, Rory had no idea how far sailing would take him. Now a fully fledged globetrotter, he’s had had the pleasure of travelling right across the globe to compete, visiting five countries this year alone.
Amongst his packed calendar, he does however still find time to try his hand at some new challenges, taking to the water in another accessible trimaran dinghy, the Challenger.
With two more hulls to negotiate than in his familiar Hansa 303, Rory is honing his skills by joining in on the UK Challenger circuit where possible.
Noting the positive impact it’s made on him, Rory says he doesn’t mind balancing his schedule around sailing:
“I tried to fit quite a lot around about it as well, but you know, it is definitely a lifestyle, but one that's very enjoyable I feel.”
He’s now fighting to get others into the sport:
“In terms of what to promote to people, it's it is the whole atmosphere that goes with sailing.
“You know, you once you get into sailing you understand that, more than most sports I’ve taken part in, there’s the social thing that goes on around about it.
“There's the camaraderie when you're traveling, and so on, and you're all going to different places, and you all know each other, but only see each other like a couple times a year.
“I find it a very unique environment to be in. I just try to tell people not to be afraid to try something they don’t know anything about!”
And if all that sailing wasn’t enough, Rory is also getting stuck into studies at the University of Dundee.
He praises Dundee University who have been incredibly supportive of his sporting ventures, making the balancing of course work and lectures while out on the road possible.
Rory has also been expressing his thanks to the RYA, for bringing one particular opportunity to his attention. By getting involved with the Switzerland GP team’s ‘Inspire’ program, he got the chance to work closely with the team throughout the GB Sail Grand Prix.
Rory says it was a surreal environment to be a part of:
“I couldn't possibly envisage anything like that happening before, but you know, as soon as I went there and had a look around and got introduced to the set up and everything, it's awesome what they do.
“It's pretty cool just to see the whole set up in the facilities.
“The logistics, the technology, it's all really cool.”
Between exciting destinations, high octane action, and top level success, sailing truly has taken Rory to places he could never have foreseen.
And, the trend is continuing at the moment, with Rory out in Monaco for some more racing with the French Hansa Class Association to round off a busy year for disability sailing.