Patrick de Peyer steps down as Commodore of Cowes Sailability Club this month, having held this position for the maximum three-year term.  In this article, he answers questions about his time at the helm of a charity that he first joined 18 years ago.

An interview with Patrick de Peyer
Commodore of Cowes Sailability Club, January 2019

What does the Commodore of Cowes Sailability Club do?
The Commodore is the leader and figurehead of Cowes Sailability Club, responsible, through the Management Committee, for all of the activities of the club. He or she will always be considering ways to develop the club, enhance the experiences available to members and support the volunteers, whilst ensuring that the club is abiding by all relevant, current legislation.  It is important to add that the Commodore cannot work in a vacuum, and I have been lucky enough to have had an excellent team including an Honourable Secretary, Fundraising Officer and Treasurer.  Without the wonderful people who have fulfilled these and other roles in recent years, my job would have been impossible.

What have been the highlights of your three years as Commodore?
For me, the highlight has been helping people with disabilities to achieve their dreams; enabling them to do things they thought would never be possible; and seeing them develop friendships and support groups.  I have particularly enjoyed running free boating trips for people with disabilities and their families during Cowes Week, and seeing everyone have such a good time, even in bad weather.  Another highlight of the last three years was being asked to one of Her Majesty the Queen’s Garden Parties, with my wife Carol, in 2018.  This kind of honour is not what I did the job for, but it was lovely to have recognition for my commitment to Cowes Sailability Club.

In total, you have been involved in Cowes Sailability Club for over 18 years.  What led you to get on board in the first place?
In the best traditions of recruitment, I was invited to help set up Cowes Sailability Club after providing and fitting some loo seats at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club!  The club’s manager obviously thought that completing that task satisfactorily put me in good stead to become a founding member of a Sailability club that he wanted to set up, and he asked me to become the Honourable Treasurer of this new group.  Little did I think then, that I would still be involved nearly 18 years later.

What value have you gained personally from volunteering with the club throughout this period?
I have gained so much really; I’ve enjoyed the banter, the cakes, the fun.  I suppose, overall, I’ve gained enormous pleasure from seeing the pride of achievement in those with disabilities and helping volunteers develop and enjoy their roles. I’ve also met some wonderful people through making connections with support groups, grant providers, our marketing support, our website hosts, our host yacht club, the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club, our local marinas, particularly East Cowes Marina, and a host of suppliers and supporters.

What would you say to other people who are considering joining Cowes Sailability Club as a volunteer?
Do it. You will find a great group of people, both the volunteers and members. You can have a lot of fun and take pleasure in helping so many people have wonderful experiences.

Are there any members who have inspired you?
So many members of Cowes Sailability Club inspire me, especially those people with awful conditions like MS and Parkinson’s disease, who are always so cheerful and live their lives to the full.  I am always particularly impressed when people with disabilities complete the Round the Island Race.  I know how tough that race can be, having done it twice myself.  It’s not just the members with disabilities who inspire me; I’m also moved by the dedication of the carers and volunteers who give so much of their time to help other people.

I suspect it wasn’t all plain sailing…  Did you hit any obstacles during your tenure as Commodore?
No, it certainly has not always been plain sailing, and there are often challenges to overcome, but you have to take the rough with the smooth.  On the less serious side, I once hit an obstacle in the marina and accidentally damaged the propeller on the outboard engine of one of our sailing boats.  This led to me being awarded the first ever ‘Ultimate Guinness Offence’ award – and the trophy was the mangled propeller mounted on a plaque!  Now the award is presented annually to anyone who makes a little mistake, and it is always received with good humour!

What are your plans now?
I intend to continue working with Cowes Sailability Club as a volunteer and expect to take on new roles in the future.  I’m immensely proud of what Cowes Sailability Club has achieved and look forward to seeing the club continue to grow so that many more people with disabilities on the Isle of Wight can enjoy sailing and boating.