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Sailability at Kinsale - The Aim is for Everyone to Sail

27th June 2019
Donal Hickey who organises the Sailability programme at Kinsale Yacht Club Donal Hickey who organises the Sailability programme at Kinsale Yacht Club

While the Sovereigns Cup is the focus at Kinsale Yacht Club this week, there is another aspect of the club which is very impressive - its commitment to inclusiveness in sailing.

"People of different abilities can sail a boat. Sailability makes sailing available for people with disabilities. It gives equality and opportunity through the attraction of the sport and the sea," says Donal Hickey who organises the Sailability programme at Kinsale and is a strong exponent of what the sport can provide for disabled people.

"We run it every Saturday morning throughout the season and it has evolved into a vibrant part of the sport and the club."

"Kinsale Yacht Club is very impressive in its commitment to inclusiveness in sailing"

Kinsale has been a big supporter of disabled sailing through the years. Sailability Ireland was set up by Irish Sailing as a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation to promote wider participation and has provided the resource to purchase specially-adapted boats, such as the.2.4 metre, designed for people with disabilities. It has optional foot or hand-steering and can be adapted to suit the needs of any sailor. The Sonar and Squibs are other boats used in disabled sailing.

Donal Hickey grew up "looking out" on Roaringwater Bay in West Cork, where his father had one of the legendary wooden ‘sand boats’.

"My own first boat was a motor boat when I was 28, but I also sailed and I crewed in Cork Week a couple of times. I was asked to help on a safety boat for the Sailability programme one morning at Kinsale and when I saw how much interest disabled people had and their determination, I decided to give it my support. I’ve seen how people with disabilities, physical, mental, all benefit from interaction with the water and the positive effects that has on their lives.

"A fear of water can be their first challenge and we help to overcome that, building confidence with training and instruction to become involved in a fully inclusive environment with all the club members. There is great support for the programme in Kinsale Yacht Club. Disabled sailing opportunities are not only for younger people and Donal told me that parents, also disabled and their children, were sailing together through the training programme.

"We cater for anyone who we can help to come onto the water and enjoy the sport. There is a lot of interest and the benefits of sailing as a sport for disabled people are clear to see."

Gina Griffin Kinsales European Sailing ChampionGina Griffin Kinsale's European Sailing Champion Photo: Bob Bateman

Kinsale Yacht Club members, Paralympian John Twomey and European Medal winner Gina Griffin, who sailed the 2.4 metre, have raised recognition of the level of the club’s commitment to promoting disabled sailing.

"I would like to see the Sailability programme become available to a wider audience throughout the country and get more recognition. Positive government support would help. It is a sports programme which can deliver so much positive benefit," Donal told me.

He will be a leading figure in the running of the Watersports Inclusion Games which will be staged for the first time in Cork this August 24/25, at Kinsale Yacht Club.


Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a column for He is former RTE Marine Correspondent/Presenter of Seascapes and now has a monthly Podcast on the Community Radio Network and Podcast services

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About Sailability

Sailability gives access to sailing for people living with disabilities or disadvantages. This Charity also provides kayaking. The aim is to train, educate and encourage more people with disabilities or disadvantages in getting on the water with a qualified dinghy, powerboat and first aid instructors.