Helping disabled sailors get active on the water

Left to right: David Carroll, Patrick Soulijaert and Adrian Cumberworth (Sussex Sailability), Hannah Clay (Sussex Community Foundation), Chris Tomlinson (Rampion Offshore Windfarm), Tony McCoy and Oliver Forsyth (also Sussex Sailability). Picture courtesy of Darren Cool
Left to right: David Carroll, Patrick Soulijaert and Adrian Cumberworth (Sussex Sailability), Hannah Clay (Sussex Community Foundation), Chris Tomlinson (Rampion Offshore Windfarm), Tony McCoy and Oliver Forsyth (also Sussex Sailability). Picture courtesy of Darren Cool

Sussex has 220 kilometres of coastline and we certainly know how to enjoy it, if this year’s early May bank holiday was anything to go by.

However, not all sea-user activities are very inclusive. For example, it can be nigh on impossible for many people with disabilities to access what the ocean has to offer.

Not so at Sussex Sailability. Based at Sussex Yacht Club premises at Shoreham, the group was recently awarded £22,360 from the new Rampion Fund at Sussex Community Foundation to buy a new safety boat for sailors with disabilities.

“Rampion Fund’s generous support will enable Sussex Sailability to buy a new safety boat to support sailors with disabilities get active on the water. I am delighted that the Rampion Fund is part of changing disabled people’s lives by building their independence and confidence and helping them to enjoy the great Sussex coast,” says Chris Hodge, chairman of Sussex Sailability.

Sailability was founded by the Royal Yachting Association to enable people with disabilities to take part in the sport of sailing. It provides sailing opportunities to people with a wide range of physical, sensory, learning and other disabilities or difficulties.

The Sussex group is 100% volunteer-run and has 15 boats suitable for people with disabilities to helm and to crew. These range from single-handers (one with servo assisted controls) to 23-feet racing keelboats. The group also has a Ro-Ro power boat, accessible for people who need to stay in their wheelchairs. Volunteers drive safety boats, help maintain, rig, launch, wash and put away the dinghies, as well as helping with coaching and sailing on and off the water. Unlike most Sailability groups on inland lakes, Sussex Sailability sails on coastal waters and that can provide more interesting boating. However, it does mean that members must be over 14 years.

The Rampion Fund made its first grants, totalling over £400,000, to 46 community groups. The £3.1 million community fund was set up by the offshore wind farm last autumn. “We have been absolutely delighted with the response from community organisations who have put forward many innovative and exciting projects in support of a diverse range of community groups,” says Chris Tomlinson, development and stakeholder manager for the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm. “The Rampion Fund has a unique appeal with many project bids incorporating renewable energy installations and energy conservation measures, which we continue to encourage in future rounds.”

The fund is designed to help fund local projects, particularly those with links to the environment and ecology, climate change and energy, as well as those that work to improve community facilities, with some consideration for energy generation and use. The next deadline for applications to the Rampion Fund is 14th September. For more information on Sussex Sailability, visit www.sussexsailability.org