Children with a range of disabilities have had fun on the water and enjoyed new experiences during boating trips arranged by Cowes Sailability Club.

School pupils with severe and complex needshave been given opportunities to enjoy the fun and excitement of speeding through the waves on a motorboat.  Cowes Sailability Club arranged a series of trips for groups from St. George’s Special School, a secondary school on the Isle of Wight that caters for young people with learning difficulties and physical disabilities. For many pupils, including children in wheelchairs, the trips provided first-time experiences on the water.

“Cowes Sailability Club has given students at St George’s Special School the chance to get out on the water in specially adapted boats,” saysKirsty Sedgwick, Class Teacher at St. George’s Special School.  “It means that students who are wheelchair users can enjoy activities alongside their peers and share an experience they may never have had before. It is clear to see from their faces how much they enjoy the experience, especially going fast across the water and rocking in the waves. The staff and students are very grateful to Cowes Sailability Club, and all those individuals and organisations who provide funding, for offering us this opportunity.”

The boating trips for the pupils from St. George’s School were arranged by Cowes Sailability Club and funded in 2019 by the Bruce Wake Charitable Trust.  This grant-awarding organisation aims to encourage and assist the provision of leisure activities for the disabled and provided Cowes Sailability Club with funding for seven half day trips.

William Mills is one of the pupils from St. George’s Special School who has benefited from the opportunity to participate in sailing trips with Cowes Sailability Club over recent years.  His mother, Laura Mills says: “There are not many opportunities for children with disabilities on the Isle of Wight, which makes Cowes Sailability Club all the more special. Although William finds verbal communication difficult, we can always tell how much he has enjoyed trips on the water with Cowes Sailability Club.  The outings provide a very positive way for him – and his classmates – to have a broad range of experiences, gain in confidence and build valuable life skills.”

Recent boating trips for St. George’s School have taken place on Wetwheels Hamble, a nine-metre catamaran owned and operated by the Wetwheels Foundation.  The vessel can accommodate ten passengers, including up to three wheelchair users, at any one time, making it ideal for groups of people with disabilities.  During the trips, the school pupils were invited to have a go at steering the boat, under supervision, helping them to build their confidence and learn new skills.