With the Olympic Games demonstrating the best of British and the Paralympic Games building upon that success, record-breaking disabled yachtsman, Geoff Holt MBE, a selector for the Team GB disabled sailing team, shares his top three accessible sailing holidays…
I love being on the water, no matter the size or shape of the boat. You get a different perspective on life when you’re afloat. It can be a very personal experience and for me, when I am afloat, I feel completely free, uninhibited and equal to those around me. It feels like I leave my disability on the dock. I understand that not every disabled person uses a wheelchair so my following selections are of a more general nature.
This has to be best introduction to tall ship sailing for anyone, disabled or not. Often cited as one of the best disabled sailing holidays in the world, the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST) have two fully adapted tall ships which offer sailing holidays from a few days to a few weeks. Based in Southampton and making passages around the UK coast, be prepared to be part of their crew, from cooking and cleaning to scrubbing the decks and climbing the mast, yes even wheelchair users. Unfortunately this experience is not suitable for users of powered wheelchairs or those with a learning disability.
The UK sailing Academy (UKSA) is based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. If you want to learn to sail, either theory and or practical, then this is possibly the best option in the UK, especially if you have a disability. The centre has accessible accommodation on shore and it uses a variety of boats, from dinghies to yachts to deliver its training. The UKSA teaches a number of RYA recognised courses, from beginner to advanced in both sailing and power disciplines. Courses range from one day to multi-week and the centre is my top recommendation for any beginner or anyone wanting to develop their interest in sailing.
The Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO) is a body which comprises more than 30 member organisations which operate in total more than 50 sail training vessels. Part of ASTO’s manifesto is to make sail-training available to everyone, regardless of ability. Most of the vessels are suitable for those who are blind, deaf or have physical disabilities but do not rely on wheelchairs. ASTO member organisations combine much of their training while at sea under the tutelage of qualified skippers and crew. They are highly respected in the maritime sector and would be only too pleased to direct you to a vessel to suit your needs.
Top Tip: Ensure any sailing provider is a recognised Royal Yachting Association (RYA) establishment and always make your own enquiries about your specific disability.