Sailability success

By Michael Roberts | posted on June 26, 2020

“THIS is living. In a boat you are in control of everything.”

For Australian sailing representative Rob Cridge, there’s no better feeling than being out on the water in his Hansa 303.

Cridge, who started sailing seven years ago, is one of the many success stories to come out of Princess Royal Sailing Club’s (PRSC) Sailability program.

The initiative, which helps people of all abilities get into sailing through specialised equipment and experienced support, has recently been registered as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provider.

PRSC Sailability Co-ordinator Mark Paynter said the official seal of approval was recognition for the work volunteers have put into the program over the past decade.

Mr Paynter said PRSC Sailability wouldn’t have lasted without local sailors stepping up to lend a hand.

“Personally, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction,” he said.

“It means we’ve met certain standards – particularly in regard to quality of service and a recognition of how we jointly plan activities with participants.

“We have an ethos about jointly planning activities with participants rather than deciding what’s best for them.”

As part of its winter program, PRSC is running sailing from Albany Boatshed during June and July, with coaching support from local sailing gun Geoff Oliver.

People of any ability can take to the water in Hansa 303s, which are small boats modified for sailors who require specially- designed controls.

PRSC Commodore Susette Evan said there were no barriers to sailing if you were willing to give it a go.

“It’s how we all learn,” she said.

“When people come they are so excited to go out. You sometimes get people with huge anxiety but they soon realise they are in control.

“The program is expanding and growing, and this year with the NDIS it’s going to be quite exciting.”

Cridge, who competed at the International Federation of Disabled Sailing World Titles after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1995, is now using his experience to teach the next generation of local boating enthusiasts.

“It’s fantastic to pass on my knowledge and get other people involved,” Cridge said.

“When the wind is up and you’re in a boat like this, it’s scary as hell.

“I like seeing the development of the people I take out. It gives them independence, that’s really cool.”