A SAILING club in Ashton Keynes is looking to help bring sailing to a greater number of disabled people, having hosted an open regatta last Saturday (April 16) for sailors of all abilities including those with disabilities to show what is possible.

The Hansa GP competition is held annually by Whitefriars Sailing Club at Cotswold Water Park, using a class of boats specifically designed for beginners, the elderly and those with disabilities, which are weighted to prevent them tipping over and include specialised controls.

The regatta consisted of four races, each featuring a different level of Hansa boat, from simpler single sail vessels to boats with larger rigs and more controls.

David Durston, principal of Sailability at Whitefriars,said: “It went really well. There were 40mph winds and temperatures of 3 °C so I think quite a few people were initially put off, so numbers were down on last year. But it was still a great day.”

Having set itself a target of attracting 10 new disabled sailors this year, Whitefriars is hoping the regatta will have encouraged those interested in sailing to get involved with the club, including volunteers to help with everything from sailing and safety boat operating, to first aid, food preparation and tea-making.

A Royal Yachting Association training centre, Whitefriars offers a range of accredited 'Sailabilty' courses for both dinghy sailing and powerboating, as well as first aid, for disabled people 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.

David, 48, is tetraplegic having suffered a spinal injury 17 years ago from diving into a swimming pool on a family holiday. He 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,” he said, adding that many of the sailors at Saturday’s competition were preparing for the World Championships in Holland June 3-10, including himself, so the standard of certain races was very high and was a “good opportunity for people to see what is possible.”

He said: “The support team were amazing on the day, with many of the club members getting involved with safety cover, and in the race team for the first time.

“They were quite impressed by the high level of racing and competitiveness across all the fleets.

“Seeing the Sailability volunteers hoisting 11 sailors into position, filled the new team with awe at what could be achieved in a boat by people with such a diverse range of disabilities.”

Whitefriars are hosting a taster day on May 15 for all sailors looking to get involved.

Visit whitefriarssc.org for more information.