Disability can be plain sailing

RYA - All At SeaNo matter what kind of sailing you are in to, the common denominator that keeps us all keen and enthusiastic is the freedom that being out on the water gives us.

The thrill as you head away from land, sheet in your sail and feel yourself propelled forward by the forces of nature is undeniable.

If you’re disabled, then all those feelings of freedom are multiplied as you hit the water and leave behind the restrictions of a landlocked life.

Sailing is one of the few sports which you can get involved with whatever your disability.

It was with this in mind that the RYA originally set up the RYA Sailability Programme with the aim of ensuring that as many disabled people as possible got the chance to take part in the sport.

Since its inception, the programme, which is also a registered charity, has flourished: At present there are 145 Sailability Centres throughout the UK, with around 25,000 disabled sailors regularly participating in the sport. Compare that with the 16,000 taking part in 2007 and you can see there are real tangible results from the programme’s work.

One of the big success stories from the last couple of years has been the RYA Sailability multi class regatta which takes place at Rutland Sailing Club over the weekend of August 13.

Now in its fourth year, this is the only event in the world which offers inter-class racing for disabled sailors. The regatta is open to all racing sailors with disabilities who race in the following classes; Access, 2.4mR, Challenger, Sonar, SKUD, Artemis and Laser Stratos.

The event is organised by RYA Sailability and funded by Sport England and the Sailability Trust.. Debbie Blachford, who manages the RYA Sailability Department, explained the ethos: “The basic thinking behind the weekend is to get more people involved in the sport and also showcase how exciting it can be.

“Year on year, we are getting more entries. There were some 72 boats and 94 entrants to the last regatta, so you’re looking at a pretty big event which provides a great opportunity for disabled sailors to test themselves against the very best.”

The weekend kicks off with a race training day on Friday, with morning and afternoon training session for all levels of racers.

A full day of class racing takes place on the Saturday, followed by an evening regatta dinner as well as spot prizes for the day’s notable performances. General handicap racing takes place throughout Sunday and the weekend culminates with prize giving presentations for the top boats in the class and handicap races.

Disabled or able bodied, first time racer or training for the 2012 Paralympics, you are welcome to get involved.

Race entry is £10 per person and includes training on Friday, racing fee and Saturday evening dinner.

Entry forms and Notice of Race details are available at www.rya.org.uk/sailability For more information contact event co-ordinator Joanna Bentley; telephone: 07789 991 603 or email: joannabentley@mac.com

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