Members of Cowes Sailability Club watched Sir Ben Ainslie race in the America’s Cup World Series during an exciting excursion aboard a wheelchair-accessible yacht.


Island residents with a range of disabilities had a unique opportunity to watch some of the fastest sailing boats in the world during the America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth in July.  Travelling in a yacht that was specially designed for wheelchairs, club members joined an armada of vessels in the Solent to support Sir Ben Ainslie and the UK’s Land Rover BAR team.

“It was a really memorable trip,” says club member Robin Whitehead who has sight and mobility impairments as a result of the medical conditions Limbic Encephalitis and Multiple Sclerosis. “You do not get many opportunities to see so many of the world’s fastest racing boats in one place at one time.  We watched the competitors try different lines on the course and have practice starts.  Even though the wind was not strong enough to get the boats up on their foils, it was really thrilling!”

The excursion was organised by Cowes Sailability Club and took place on board The Spirit of Scott Bader, a 35-foot catamaran owned by the Disabled Sailing Association.  It was chartered for the day through the Gwennili Trust, an approved RYA Sailability foundation organisation that Cowes Sailability Club collaborates with regularly to widen the sailing opportunities for disabled people on the Isle of Wight.

Before the America’s Cup practice race started, club members were entertained by the Red Arrows.  “As we were on the water, we had a view from directly underneath the display,” says Whitehead.  “We could see the pilots clearly as they barrel rolled and passed upside-down overhead.  It was incredible to be able to experience the event in person, rather than just watch it on TV or read about it afterwards.”

During the four days of sailing that made up the Portsmouth stage of the America’s Cup World Series, it is estimated that there were nearly 35,000 spectators on the water in over 3,000 vessels.  The UK’s Land Rover BAR team, including Sir Ben Ainslie, gained first place overall in the stage, after six races.

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