Children with congenital hand differences and other upper limb problems are being inspired to build their confidence and independence on the water thanks to a new initiative between Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Midland Sailing Club.

Fourteen children, including patients and siblings, got afloat and enjoyed an introduction to sailing at Edgbaston Reservoir last month. This was the first ‘taster’ session as part of the fledging partnership to support more people living with a range of different conditions in capitalising on the benefits of sailing in their rehabilitation and recovery.

The youngsters went out in specially-adapted boats and had such a fantastic time many of them are already geared up to return to take part in more sessions at the club. The children with congenital hand differences and other musculoskeletal problems are all under the care of Dr. Andrea Jester, Clinical Lead for Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Hand and Upper Limb Service.

She explains why sailing can make a difference to the young people. Dr Jester said: “Sailing is a very unique sport, so for the children to be able to say ‘I go sailing’ sets them apart from their peers. Many of them are not able to take part in traditional team sports so to have something different of their own is very nice.

"The boats are very accessible and, for us, the most important part of this is the inclusivity - how these youngsters integrate into full club life. We want a child to see sailing as a super sport in which they can be fully involved on and off the water.”

Children with congenital hand differences and other upper limb problems from Birmingham Children’s Hospital get afloat at Midland SCThe taster session was run by Midland SC’s ‘Sail Birmingham’ project, which aims to put community sailing at the heart of the city by making the water accessible to everyone of any age, background and ability. A trial day for professionals and clinicians from a number of the different hospital departments was staged at Edgbaston earlier this year to showcase how sailing can promote the building of confidence and independence.

Through Sail Birmingham, people of all abilities can take advantage of the specially-adapted boats in the club’s Sailability sessions. Sailability is the national programme, organised by sailing’s national governing body, the RYA, which enables disabled people to experience sailing and become regulars.

Now the club is looking forward to making it possible for more local people, who would never have thought sailing was an option for them, to get afloat.

Keith Wraight, Sail Birmingham project lead, said: “The removal of barriers to sailing is key to our work and we’re really excited to have created this partnership with the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust team. Facilitating these sessions is an amazingly powerful way in which people can access an activity that may otherwise be out of their reach and unavailable.

“Sailing is a way to escape everyday issues, it’s truly immersive and thanks to our specially-adapted equipment we can provide these experiences for all regardless of their previous experience, ability and additional needs. Through our links within the hospital we hope in 2020 we will be able to get more young people to experience the freedom and excitement sailing can provide.”

Midland SC is a recognised RYA Training Centre meaning it conforms to the highest standards of quality and safety. For more information about the club’s Sail Birmingham community project visit www.sailbirmingham.com