There are currently more than 200 Sailability sites across the UK. Frensham pond Sailability member Lara Sturgis tells us how you can make your sailing club more accessible for disabled sailors.
Frensham Pond Sailability is an integral part of Frensham Pond Sailing Club and is a great club for disabled people as well as those with long term illness. Our aim at Frensham Pond Sailablility is to get as many disabled people as possible on the water, sailing independently if they are able to and want to. For some, Sailablility may be the only activity they can do, and they can achieve recognition through a variety of sailing awards.
Sessions for all
It is important for Sailability sites to offer regular and enjoyable sessions that cater to the needs of all its members. Sailability sessions at Frensham Pond run from April until October on Thursdays and Saturdays and are open to all ages and abilities. Thursday morning sessions are for anyone with a disability, and in the afternoon we have race training, where we are split into two groups, each with its own coach. The Youth Group meets every Saturday morning. This is a group of young disabled sailors who can learn to sail on their own independently. The idea of the Youth Group is to get young people together, where they can be coached on the water by young coaches, and young disabled sailors can go out onto the water with an able bodied young sailor. Before each session we have a briefing on the aims of that session, whether it is tacking up win or dealing with particular wind conditions, before holding a full de-brief afterwards.
Many Sailability sites work in partnership with schools and organisations. At Frensham Pond, several local special schools, such as Stepping Stones from Hindhead and the Ridgeway School in Farnham, come along to Frensham Pond Sailability to give sailing go. They come as part of the school curriculum on a Thursday morning and have a wide range of pupils with several different kinds of disability ranging from deafness, blindness and mobility problems.
Boats and equipment
We use Hansa dinghies at Frensham Pond Sailability. These are an Australia design which has a deep interior, allowing a disabled person to sit inside the boat in a hard bucket seat. They also have a heavy keel making the boat very balanced in the water, as well as making you feel very safe. Steering is by means of a joystick. We have two types of Hansa dinghies. The Hansa 2.3 has only one sail and is for single handed sailing. The Hansa 303 has the same design as the 2.3 but has a jib as well as a mainsail. It is wider so you can have a buddy in the boat with you or an able bodied instructor on a hammock seat.
It is important for Sailability sites to be accessible for all, and at Frensham Pond the access for wheelchairs is very good, with flat ground making movement very easy. There is a ramp up to the clubhouse and a recently installed automatic sliding door, which works at the push of a button. These are key features that make a Sailability site easier to use for everyone.
You can read RYA Sailability guidance on disability and accessibility on their website page.
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