Fun day out for disabled sailors

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 27/01/2014

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Efforts to launch a "have a go" day for disabled sailors were hampered by yesterday's stormy weather, but the eight families who turned out got to check out one of the purpose built sailing dinghies to see how it worked.

The Nelson Yacht Club is aiming at branching out into providing for disabled sailors, and wanted to gauge interest with an open day yesterday.

Spokesman John MacDuff, who has had a long association with the club, is hoping to revive early attempts to provide accessible sailing.

"The weather conditions weren't conducive to introducing novices to sailing but a dinghy was rigged on the yacht club deck and a couple of youngsters hopped in and held the main sheet and operated the lever controlling the rudder," Mr MacDuff said.

He said yesterday's open day was supported by experts on accessible sailing, including Yachting New Zealand disabled sailing coordinator Kristine Horne who came down from Auckland for the event, Halberg Trust disabled sport adviser Justin Muschamp and Tracey Perry from the Parafed Youth Sport Club Nelson.

"They gave parents confidence that this was a wonderful opportunity for their child to experience a different sport. In a couple of cases, it also enabled other sibling to learn to sail alongside as the Access Dinghy is a two person boat," Mr MacDuff said.

A Nelson-Marlborough trust formed recently acquired two purpose-built Access dinghies, one of which went to Queen Charlotte Yacht Club and the other, eventually, to an Otago club.

The boat that went to Marlborough is now back in Nelson.

He said similar groups operated in many other yachting centres, and he was keen to see Nelson launch this initiative.

The Sailability Nelson trust aims to own and operate the equipment, and sailors will be associate members of Nelson Yacht Club and Yachting NZ.

Mr MacDuff said at this stage there was no hoist to assist people in wheelchairs into the dinghy.

"With enough interest, we'll seek public support and look to include this facility [hoist] to open the sport up to a wider group," he said.

Another open day would be held in about a month to six weeks.

"We'll make it more of a family day where parents can bring all their children and picnic on the deck."

Sailors would be allocated times with one of the club's junior coaches to get out on the water in the Access dinghy, and families would be taken out in either the club's patrol boats or its Sunburst sailing dinghies.

"Parents were really supportive of the initiative and were keen to help the club establish this class of sailing in Nelson," he said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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