A SAILING club in Ashton Keynes is looking for more volunteers to help bring the experience of sailing to a greater number of disabled people, with the sailing season beginning this month.

Having set itself a target of attracting 10 new disabled sailors this year, the Whitefriars Sailing Club – based at Cotswold Water Park – need more help in everything from sailing and safety boat operating, to first aid, food preparation and tea-making.

The club, a Royal Yachting Association training centre, offers a range of accredited 'Sailabilty' courses for both dinghy sailing and powerboating, as well as first aid, for those both able-bodied and disabled who are interested in learning, led by trained volunteers.

The specialised equipment and boats available at the club enable disabled people to learn to sail independently, which includes those with no physical function who are taught using blow-suck controls for the sails and steering.

Participants are paired with a boat which best caters towards the type and severity of their disability and experience.

David Durston, of Whitefriars, said: “Sailing is a fantastic sport for people with disabilities because the equipment enables us to compete on level terms, even for those with very severe impairments.

"I would really like to reach more disabled people and encourage them to have a go.

“We have a regatta on the April 16, and we're expecting 20-30 boats from the Hansa Class. Many of the sailors will be preparing for the World Championships in Holland June 3-10, so the standard will be high.

“This would be a good opportunity for people to see what is possible."

Following a brain haemorrhage at the age of 20, David Craig, Whitefriars publicity manager, now 51, lost the use of his entire left side. He had sailed in his youth but felt it was not something he could do again until he found out about the Sailability courses at Whitefriars.

“We’re looking to encourage people who wouldn’t normally think they could do it,” he said. “Some people who are disabled believe they can’t learn to sail. You absolutely can. These specialised boats can’t tip over because of how they are weighted, which means you are safe and can have a good time.

“I was under the impression that I wouldn’t be welcome, and you get a lot of people who feel like doing something like this will expose them in some way as being disabled. But that’s certainly not the case. Everyone has a great time.”

A broad range of training is given to volunteers, including disability awareness, power boat, sailing, first aid, boat rigging and food hygiene, depending on how much each individual would like to be involved.

Sailability operates from April through to October on the water, but the club also aims to train people with disabilities, who so desire, to get involved in racing and other activities as members of the main club, alongside the able bodied sailors.

In addition, it is planned that volunteers and disabled sailors may enjoy more social off-shore activities through the winter months in the future.

Visit whitefriarssc.org for more information.