"Whatever your disability, whether you know how to sail
or not, you will end up smiling!"

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Dick taking on the seven seas!

When I saw the announcement in the Daily Echo of the launch of Chesil Sailability I thought it might offer a chance to become involved again in water sports which, as a keen windsurfer and one time sailor, was something I had missed over the last five years. A prompt reply to my email assured me that I would be welcome and I duly turned up for the Launch at the WPNSA in March. My first impressions were that it did not seem to be well attended and although those in charge were obviously keen I did wonder if there would be sufficient support to get the scheme off the ground, or should that be “on the water”. The video however was very encouraging as it showed what could be done and it was also good to see one of the access boats in the flesh. Unfortunately I came in at the end of Ian White’s presentation but heard enough to make me want to get involved. Any doubts about the viability of Chesil Sailability and the support available were dispelled at the Welcome Reception my wife and I attended which was held at the RYA building in May. Presentations by Ian, Hugh and Marcus were very positive, outlined the way forward and answered a lot of questions and concerns. There was also a nice social atmosphere not unlike that of other clubs I have been involved with in the past. Surprisingly, though not a fan of paperwork, joining was not as arduous as anticipated but unfortunately neither my wife or I were able to attend any of the training sessions. However, this did not stop me being invited to take part as a sailor in the first sailing session at the end of July which had materialised as a result of a lot of hard work by the volunteers. Although I was a little apprehensive my instructor was very understanding and put me at ease by giving me the helm shortly after leaving the pontoon though I did find using a joy stick rather than a rudder a little disconcerting. There wasn't a lot of wind but we found enough to fill the sails and even managed to get a bit of heel on at times. The icing on the cake was being allowed to bring the boat back to the pontoon on my own and I think it was fair to say I was hooked. For my next time out on the water I was both excited and alarmed to be told I was going solo but again a few words with my instructor about the various bits of string put me at ease and I had a very pleasant sail ( with not too many helming problems) in a little more wind and at the end of the session I was very chuffed to hear Marcus utter those magic words “race team”. What Marcus said of me the next time out is probably unprintable. In what was quite a decent blow I did an involuntary 360 just after leaving the pontoon due to treating the joystick as a rudder but fortunately he let me continue and I had a really exhilarating sail in something like a force 3 to 4. The enjoyment factor is certainly more than directly proportional to the wind speed. Apart from my own experience it has been nice to see the reactions of the other sailors. To name a few; Jane always comes in with a smile on her face, Roy (an ex-windsurfer) obviously gets the most he can out of it, Tim is very competitive, I am amazed at the skill which Tom displays when he sails his Liberty and Ian really seems to me to epitomise the aims of Chesil Sailability in introducing sailing to somebody who probably would never have considered it possible. Ian obviously looks forward to his adrenalin rush and he, Bob Scull and me had a hilarious game of tag amongst the boats on our last sail of the season. One evening when there was no wind Marcus organised an impromptu training session covering everything from reception through to rigging and launching and hoist operation. It really made me appreciate all the effort put in by the volunteers. Over this season I have got to know quite a few of them and the thing that I like is their attitude towards the sailors. I feel I belong to a club where all are interested in sailing but those more able bodied are prepared to give up their time and effort to give people like myself the opportunity to sail which otherwise would not be possible. Not only that, they do it in a manner that does not make the sailors feel uncomfortable. There is help, humour and understanding but not a trace of pity or fussing over you, everything is done to make the sailor as independent as possible. Thank you Chesil Sailability you have made a very encouraging start and I am sure there is more to come. Dick F

P.S. Dick is now on our Race Team, and competing at a National level!

 

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