People with disabilities formed over half the crew in a yacht that secured first-in-class at the Round the Island Race 2016.


Members of Cowes Sailability Club were among the crew of a yacht that achieved first-in-class in the Round the Island Race 2016 on 1st July, despite challenging sailing conditions.  Of the eleven hardy sailors on board, six had a range of physical disabilities or learning difficulties and one was a wheelchair user.

The yacht was The Spirit of Scott Bader, a 35-foot wheelchair accessible catamaran owned by the Disabled Sailing Association and skippered by a professional yachtsman, John Douglas. It was chartered for the race around the Isle of Wight by the Gwennili Trust, an approved RYA Sailability foundation organisation that Cowes Sailability Club has collaborated with successfully over many years.

The Spirit of Scott Bader completed the 50 nautical mile race in 8 hours, 2 minutes and 14 seconds. It crossed the finishing line over 30 minutes before the second placed yacht (on corrected time), to win the HOYA Trophy for bridgedeck multi-hull catamarans.

Cowes Sailability Club member and occupational therapist Samantha Jefferies received the trophy, on behalf of the skipper, from the renowned world record-breaking yachtsman Brian Thompson. She says, “It was a truly amazing experience to be part of a competitive sailing event where people with disabilities competed on equal terms with able-bodied sailors and won first-in-class. It is great that there are organisations like Cowes Sailability Club and the Gwennili Trust that can make such opportunities accessible to everyone.”

The sailing conditions during the race were incredibly challenging for everyone on board, particularly around the southern coastline of the Isle of Wight and the Needles rocks. There were reportedly gusts of winds of up to 40 knots, while the waves in the vicinity of Ventnor were 4 to 5 metres high.

Andy Barton who suffers with multiple sclerosis completed the entire race in his wheelchair. “I need challenges to improve my physical and mental well-being and the Round the Island Race gave me this in spades!” he says. “I can safely say that participating in this event in 2016 took me out of my comfort levels and I loved it!”

Do you know someone with disabilities who would like to try sailing for the first time? Read about club membership