On 12 and 13 September, Cowes Sailability Club arranged for disabled islanders to undertake day-long sailing adventures on board a wheelchair-accessible yacht. Despite having a range of complex and debilitating conditions, the crew members were able to overcome their challenges, learn new skills and have a very rewarding experience on the water.
John Jemson, who has a spinal condition and suffers from chronic back pain, took part in one of the sailing days. “It was the first time that I had been on a sailing boat in more than 20 years and it took me back to my childhood when I was able-bodied,” he says. “There were no vibrating engines to cause me discomfort and I learned how to helm the yacht from my wheelchair. The whole experience made me feel energised and alive!”
John is a relatively new member of Cowes Sailability Club, having only joined during the summer of 2016. “As someone who is restricted to a wheelchair and often in a lot of pain, I used to feel very isolated. Becoming a member of Cowes Sailability Club has given me a real boost. It enables me to meet up with people who have different disabilities, as well as volunteers, and enjoy social interaction. It makes me feel part of something special, keeps depression at bay and makes me feel like I’m living, not just existing.”
Everyone who participated in the sailing trips had the opportunity to helm the yacht and learn how to trim the sails. During the first day cruise, the crew had a good wind and headed west along the Solent towards Hurst Castle and the Needles. On the second of the trips, the crew faced somewhat stormy conditions and high winds, but nonetheless completed an extensive tour of the Solent and Brambles Bank. More than 35 nautical miles were covered on each of the two excursions.
The Cowes Sailability Club members with disabilities were supported on the two days by a team of volunteers with sailing experience, along with a professional skipper and first mate. There was a great sense of camaraderie on board and everyone had a very rewarding experience.
The crew on the first day sail: Bev Beadsworth, Collin Turner, Chris Darley (Mate), John Jemson, Kay Read, John Douglas (Skipper) and Robin Whitehead (on Camera).
The two excursions took place on The Spirit of Scott Bader, a 35-foot catamaran owned by the Disabled Sailing Association. The charter and volunteer crew were organised for Cowes Sailability Club by the Gwennili Trust through its Day Sailing programme which runs from April to October each year. The Gwennili Trust is an approved RYA Sailability foundation organisation that shares Cowes Sailability Club’s passion for creating off shore sailing opportunities for disabled people.
Do you know someone with disabilities who would like to try sailing or boating?
Read about club membership here.