I read an article about "Sailors with disabilities" and their planned
participation in the Sydney to Hobart race. I decided that my project
would be to arrange to take some people with disabilities sailing
for a day. I had been a sailor when I was younger but had never
really had that much contact with people with disabilities. I decided
that organising a day out on the harbour would be challenging for
When I discussed my idea at the course a fellow participant suggested
that I contact Dr. Phil Vardy, as he was a sailor with a disability
who might be able to give me "some assistance". Little did I know
what I was in for when I phoned this Dr. Vardy to discuss my idea.
Anyway, in May 1995, after many meetings with Phil, we organised
a "Come and Try" sailing day at Dobroyd Aquatic Club. We had three
Access Dinghies brought up from Melbourne and Phil brought his Trailer
Sailer also. To see Phil rig his own boat by himself was the start
of many amazing sights for me that day.
I had contacted the Northcott Society and organised for them to
bring along some of the young people, that they worked with, to
try sailing. I also contacted the Ryde Rehabilitation Centre and
they had people they would like to bring along, as well.
I had only seen a picture of an Access Dinghy before that day and
was surprised by the size of them, when Chris arrived. I had a friend
helping me on the day, who said "We're not going to put people with
disabilities in those little boats are we?" I said " Apparently
Others were also a little sceptical at first, but some had seen
the boats before and were very excited about getting people out
on the water. We weren't rushed by people wanting to get into the
dinghies at first, but once we had the first three people out on
the water, we had a queue of people wanting to try.
As I have said, I had not really had any contact with people with
disabilities at that time and had no idea how to lift or even socialise
with people with disabilities. Everyone was great and I soon realised
that all I had to do was say "Hi" and things would progress naturally
It was a long day of lifting people in and out of boats, raising
centreboard after centreboard, but I will never forget the smiles
on the faces of the sailors as they came back into shore. The excitement
they expressed at being able to sail was just fantastic to see.
The day was a great success and the first question asked by all
was " when are we going to have the next one?"
Well it is now three years later and we have helped organise many
"next times" over that time. I still get a tear in my eye when I
think back to the first day and remember the smiles - heck; I still
get a tear in my eye when I see the smiles each sailing day I attend
I have met so many great people and made so many great friends since
becoming a part of Sailability, that I wonder what my life would
be like, had I not read that article back in December 1994! My wife,
Barbara, and both sets of parents are involved, along with other
friends from time to time, at the Dobroyd branch, and they also
say what a difference it makes in their lives.
If anyone is reading this and they're wondering whether they could
get something out of being associated with Sailability, then all
I can say is "give it a try" It may be life altering for you, as
it has been for me.
Happy Sailing! Maybe I'll see you on the water one day."
Story provided by Neil Anderson, Sailability NSW.
Courtesy of www.govolunteer.com.au.