An 11-year-old Rutland sailor, who says sailing lets him “be me”, was amongst no fewer than 20 sailors from Rutland Sailability who took to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic waters of Weymouth and Portland for the 2019 RYA Sailability Multiclass Regatta (5-7 July).
With 127 sailors competing in over 70 boats, the Multiclass Regatta is the UK’s biggest disability sailing event of its kind. The event, now in its 12th year, is a real celebration of the impact sailing can have in changing lives, with the achievements of both the winners and those competing for the first time recognised and cheered equally. This was the first time the event was hosted at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
Logan Bell, competing in a three-person boat with 17-year-old clubmate, Jensen Kendall, and Rutland Sailability senior instructor, John Deane, was first introduced to sailing when he was seven.
But, since joining Rutland Sailability, the Stamford-based 11-year-old, who has autism, A DHD and sensory processing issues. and also lives with a range of other health conditions, including hypermobility syndrome, reactive arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, a curved spine and a duplex kidney, has found his identity.
He said: "When I come sailing I’m me, not what other people want me to be. The rest of the time you spend trying not to be you, just to fit in. I enjoy sailing, it gives you freedom. If you’ve had a really rubbish day and feel irritated you just have to go sailing and you’re fine.
"At Sailability you see there are different variations of people and everyone can do different things. It’s about who you are. If you don’t know how different people cope and do things you don’t know what the world is really like.”
Mum, Marie, accompanied Logan to the South Coast and she believes being involved in Sailability has helped her son develop key life skills, such as empathy and independence. Because of his autism, Logan can find disruption to his routine stressful, while large groups of people overwhelm him.
But Marie explains that because he loves sailing so much, attending events like this can help him learn to adapt and deal with change and crowds. She continues: “When Logan first started Sailability he wouldn’t speak to anyone, but now he has become much more confident.
"In team games, like football and rugby, there are too many people, but sailing is something he can do and it’s not something any of his friends do, so it has allowed him to get recognition and praise at school too.”
Logan, who has raised over £6,000 for Rutland Sailability through various fundraisers such as helping to organise a charity ball and growing his hair, is improving his sailing skills progressing through both the RYA’s Youth Sailing Scheme and the RYA Sailability Logbook syllabus. He has also achieved his RYA Level 1 Start Powerboating certificate.
And although the Multiclass was his first time sailing on the sea, he took it in his stride, adding: "It was different but quite enjoyable, but you really had to work 10 times harder on than usual. The waves weren’t too bad. We’ve had bad weather and big waves at Rutland recently and I didn’t think being on the sea could be any worse than that!"
Meanwhile, there was Rutland podium success for defending Challenger class champion, Valerie Millward, who retained her title ahead of her club mate, Graham Hall. To discover how RYA Sailability is about #morethansailing visit www.rya.org.uk/sailability and for more information about Rutland Sailability visit www.rutlandsailability.org.uk