With more than 100 sailors, competing in over 70 boats, the UK’s biggest disability sailing event of its kind took place this weekend (05–07 July) at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA), home of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The RYA Sailability Multiclass Regatta has evolved over the years and is now a real festival for disabled sailing and a celebration of the impact sailing can have. Tom Hepburn, 15, from Wyke Regis explains: "Sailing has given me a lot of freedom. I can go anywhere in the harbour I choose to go pretty much, which is different to how I feel in my day to day life."
The event provides a whole host of opportunities for participants of varying abilities to get out on the water, as Mark Williams from Wales explains: “There was a single guy out on his own managing everything just with a little joystick to control the boat and you think if he can do that then so can anyone. There’s no excuse not to get in a boat.”
Mark, who has been an amputee since aged 10, and hadn’t sailed in 10 years before the Multiclass added: "At this event you see it's not disability it's this-ability, and people just being able to do sailing regardless of what their disability is."
RYA Sailability Manager, Joff McGill concluded: “This year’s regatta is our biggest and best so far. Along with the exciting fleet racing and the annual Ken Ellis Pursuit Race, the event allows those who have never even been on the water before to give it a go and experience the freedom that being on the water brings.”
Nine classes of boat, many of which have been adapted to enable people with disabilities to compete on a level playing field competed.
The Blind Sailing team - consisting of Lucy Hodges, Ben Hazeldine, Eddie Kitchen and Martin Phillips - sailing in an Elliot 6M keelboat, won the Keelboat League and were awarded the prestigious Ken Ellis trophy finishing first place in the Pursuit Race.
The class winners are
- Random pairs team racing:
- Liberty winner: Chris Atkins, Hanningfield Sailability
- 303 winner: Bob Waters, Waveney Sailability and Timothy Hall, Chesil Sailability
- RS Venture Connect: Thomas Harper and Michael Harper, Chesil Sailability
- Access Liberty: David Durston, Whitefriars Sailability
- Hansa 303 single: Defending Champion Mike Everitt, Frensham Pond Sailing Club, retained his title
- Hansa 303 double: Natalia Hillman and Alan Hillman
- Challenger: Defending Champion Valerie Millward, Rutland Sailability, retained her title
- Hansa 2.3: Defending Champion Lindsay Burns, Frensham Pond Sailing Club, retained her title
- Skud18: Lynne Swan and Stu Swan, Weston Sailing Club
- 2.4mR: Megan Pascoe, Frensham Pond Sailing Club
- Weta: Chris Hodge and Tony McCoy, Sussex Sailability
Thank you to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly all weekend to make the event possible, including hosts Weymouth and Portland National sailing Academy. Thanks also go to support teams including: Chesil Sailability, the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre, the OTC, and the Miss Isle Sailing School.
Sailability is the national programme run by sailing’s governing body, the RYA, giving people with disabilities the chance to try sailing and to take part regularly. The British network of more than 200 RYA-approved Sailability sites have boats and facilities to cater for people across the whole spectrum of abilities.
For full results click here
To find out more about sailing opportunities for disabled people, or those that need specific support to get on-the-water visit www.rya.org.uk/sailability.