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Learn to Sail with Sailability

The young sailor is beaming as she describes her time out on the water.

“It’s amazing. It’s like an adventure every time.”

That’s a reaction that Sailability Tauranga Charitable Trust Chair Alistair Eagleson is accustomed to.

Sail 2

“Our programme is designed to build self-confidence and pride through achievement,​​​​” he says. “When our sailors come off the water, they’re absolutely buzzing.”

Sailability Tauranga is a not for profit, volunteer-based organisation that provides sailing opportunities for anyone with any disability. 

“For some, it’s just that feeling of being out on the water with the wind in their hair and the sun on their faces, and an occasional bit of spray from the water. For others, they’re learning and moving along a pathway.” 

The programme has four stages: therapeutic sail or sailing experience, learn to sail and learn to race.

“We listen to what our sailors want, offering them the opportunity to sail the boat and adjust sails, coaching them and giving feedback on how they’re doing and letting them know when they have the potential to do more. If they have the inclination to progress, we help them do that.”

Sail 6

In fact, many sailors who’ve been through the programme race at national championships, initially with an experienced sailing skipper for support before progressing to sailing single handed. A real success is sailors returning for regular experiences, some even working as volunteers on sailing days.

“Sailing can be challenging. When sailors go solo, they learn independence, self-care and the need to make good decisions.” 

Safety is a major factor with three supporting patrol boats on the water to assist. The Hansa 303 yachts are buoyant and easy to manoeuvre, with a high boom that sweeps well above the sailor’s heads when tacking. The seats are low and comfortable, and the sails are able to be reefed and unfurled easily from the cockpit. 

“The boats are ideal because you don’t have to move around with the steering joystick and ropes close at hand. We are very conscious of our responsibilities to vulnerable members of our community, so we follow procedures to keep everyone safe. We want our volunteers to have as much fun as our sailors do.”