I was apprehensive the first time I went. I couldn’t picture how I’d get in a boat. I didn’t realise there was such a thing as hoists and incredible people willing to make it possible. Once I was back on the water, it was like riding a bike.


I’ve probably made more friends through sailing than I have at any other point in my life, it’s become the core of my social life. It’s just a wonderful place to be a - it’s my thing.


Meet Chris

You could say Chris swings by for a spot of sailing now and then

More Active than ever, with MS

When Chris Emmet was diagnosed with MS at 40 he put sailing in a box.

He loved being involved with his family at Staunton Harold SC, sailing his Mirror was his children. But when his newly diagnosed condition meant he no longer had the strength to pull the boat up the slipway, or the dexterity to tie knots, he gave it up.

Yet, now 72, Chris is more active on the water than ever. Sailing not only gave him a renewed lease of life, it became his lifeline.


“After my diagnosis I thought the best thing to do was to forget about sailing and pack it up altogether,” Chris admits. “It was like a box of chocolates, if I didn’t open it I couldn’t be tempted."

Ten years ago that changed.

A chance meeting with the carer of a fellow wheelchair user introduced Loughborough-based Chris to Rutland Sailability. He had never heard of Sailability and had no idea there was somewhere so local that helped people with disabilities get on the water. For the first time, he allowed himself to peak in the chocolate box.

“I was quite apprehensive the first time I went to Rutland. I was in a wheelchair and couldn’t picture how I’d possibly get in a boat. I didn’t realise there was such a thing as hoists and how many incredible people were willing to make all things possible.

“Once I was back on the water, it was like riding a bike. I soon got the hang of it again. I was in the fresh air, and for the first time in years, felt free. Now I have to go to Rutland every Thursday, it gets me doing things and out of the house.”

Opening the door

The onset of a chronic health condition or simply the aging process can quickly lead to people becoming housebound. Chris concedes sitting at home in front of the TV becomes much easier; not leaving the house means you are not stressing yourself or others out with all the challenges that come with getting up and out.

But Chris had cabin fever. He didn’t want to sit at home, as he puts it, “dithering away getting old.” He knew he wanted to do something. Sailability, which is funded by the National Lottery via Sport England, was the answer.

“You’ve got to have a bit of confidence to get back out there,” he continues. “But at Rutland there are so many people like me who found that confidence and discovered Sailability and have great joy in being involved.

“In the last 10 years I’ve probably made more friends through Sailability than I have at any other point in my life, it’s become the core of my social life.

“Even if I’m not feeling well enough to actually sail I always go to Sailability as it’s just a wonderful place to be and there’s always something else I can do, for example, going out on the rescue boat. It’s my thing.”

Paths to independence

For the first five years after returning to the water, Chris sailed a two-person Hansa 303 so had help reaching and pulling some of the ropes. But he always wanted to be able to do it on his own and discovered that was possible in the Hansa Liberty.

With the boat’s motorized servo assist controls and rope positioning helping remove some of the physical barriers to sailing solo, Chris discovered an even greater sense of independence and improved physical and mental wellbeing.

“Everyone should be out in the fresh air and sunshine. I have so much freedom in nature and love being sat on Rutland Water watching the ospreys flying over. These are priceless moments you would never experience cooped up in the house.”

Sailing has also allowed Chris to satisfy his competitive streak as a regular on the national and European Hansa class racing circuit. In 2018 he was the Hansa Liberty National Champion and finished fifth at the 2017 Europeans in Meze, France, where he also picked up an award for being the oldest competitor!

In his wheelchair-adapted Mercedes Sprinter van, Chris is totally independent in travelling and towing his boat to Rutland and events. This October he is once again set to drive across Europe to the 2019 Europeans in Portimão on Portugal’s Algarve.

Chris admits 10 years ago he could never have imagined what his life has become. But he will always be grateful to fate intervening and putting him back in a boat.

“People might be afraid to try sailing as they have a vision of being in footstraps hanging over the side of a boat or capsizing and falling in. But we’re sitting in these very stable boats facing forwards and, although I enjoy racing, there are as many people who just enjoy being on the water and paddling around under sail.”

He concludes: “I didn’t know any of this was possible, but now I live a free life and it really could happen to anyone. Independence is there and it’s grabbable.”

Join us near you
Find the best fit for you

With over 200 Sailability venues, there is somewhere on the water near you. Finding the best fit for your values, needs and budget is key to your enjoymebnt.

Your first visit

Before your first visit, find out what support you can expect, plan what you need to bring and think about the support you will need

Any questions

Everyone's different, so contact us if you have questions or want to find out more about how boating can be made to work for you

Experienced sailors

Looking for the next challenge - the only limit is your imagination. There is a world of opportunity to develop your skills, build confidence and nurture your passion.

New sailors

A level playing field. Everyone can go sailing. Rule the waves with activities for young people, adults and groups at your pace, adapted to your abilities

Types of boats

Sailing is open to everyone. Regardless of age or ability, it’s a level playing field out on the water and the opportunities to get involved are ever evolving. Find out about some of the boats involved