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Ken Curry, secretary of Foyle Sailability, has been appointed as RYA Northern Ireland’s sailability coordinator for the reguon.

Curry took up the post this month and says he is looking forward to helping people with disabilities to get out on the water and take part in sailing and water-based activities.

A later convert to sailing in his thirties, Curry is a member of Lough Swilly Yacht Club in Donegal. Also a keen cruiser, he circumnavigated Ireland on Kind of Blue, Garry Crothers’ Ovni, as part of an effort to raise awareness of sailability throughout Ireland.

Curry has taken part in many challenges over the years, some of which he says have been “life-changing”. He was asked to help out when Bob Harper (former sailability coordinator) brought a group of volunteers from Belfast Lough Sailability to Derry for the first ever sailability event on the River Foyle.

Many of the volunteers stayed with Foyle Sailability, Curry eventually became secretary and the club went from strength to strength.

Commenting on his new post, Curry said: “As someone who has been involved with sailability for quite a few years now, I enjoy helping when I can and I’m a firm believer in giving those with disabilities the opportunity to get on the water.

“I understand that for a lot of our sailors, just being on the water is stimulation enough, but there are also others who have the skills, drive and abilities to become very competent and competitive sailors, too.

“I am delighted to have been appointed sailability coordinator and I’m proud to continue my support of RYA Northern Ireland as I believe it to be one of the most respected organisations locally and throughout the world.

“I am looking forward to helping to give more disabled people — both young and old — the opportunity to enjoy our great sport.”

Congratulating Curry on his new role, RYA Northern Ireland’s outgoing chief operating officer Richard Honeyford said: “Ken has been an excellent advocate and ambassador for sailability in Northern Ireland for many years.

“His enthusiasm for our sport is infectious and I am looking forward to seeing him continue on his journey to making our sport even more accessible to people of all abilities right across Northern Ireland.”

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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The River Foyle flows into Lough Foyle in the North West of Northern Ireland through the city of Derry and in that area there are already established the Marina, Foyle commercial Port, Lough Foyle Yacht Club and Foyle Search and Rescue. Now Foyle Sailability, who up until this season had no permanent base, have seen work start on their first home at Prehen less than two miles upriver from the City.

The Derry and Strabane District Council has given the club a compound and a container, and a new pontoon is being built there. As there are only certain times that work on the riverbank can be undertaken because of wildlife, construction has just begun with a completion date sometime in the Spring.
The club has a core of 30 regulars, sailors and volunteers, but pre Covid the membership was much larger. However, it is hoped that they will be able to hold events this year, with the situation becoming more normal. Having space to store the fleet of four Hanse dinghies, a Hawk and two safety boats is a bonus.

Prehen, the site of the new pontoonPrehen, the site of the new pontoon

Lough Foyle Yacht Club member and Chairman of Foyle Sailability Garry Crothers, the one-armed sailor who sailed single-handed in 2020 from the Caribbean was Afloat Sailor of the Month in June that year and last year the Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) awarded Garry its 2020 Seamanship Award. And Secretary Ken Curry was recently honoured by HRH The Princess Royal at a Ceremony in London with an Outstanding Contribution award.

Ken Curry (left) was given an Outstanding Contribution award by HRH The Princess Royal recentlyKen Curry (left) was given an Outstanding Contribution award by HRH The Princess Royal recently

Garry and Ken are delighted that Foyle Sailability will have a base to work from at long last. “Foyle Sailability is super excited to see the work started on a new pontoon at Prehen. The 66-metre pontoon will have services, disabled access and a hoist to enable wheelchair users access to the river. Derry City and Strabane Council will provide a compound and container for storage. This will be the first time in 10 years that Foyle Sailability has been going that they will have somewhere to call home. The work is to be completed by the early Springtime, so after two particularly bad years, we can look forward to getting our disabled sailors out on the water on a regular basis”.

Garry Crothers Garry Crothers

Published in Sailability
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Carrickfergus sailor Bob Harper has stepped down from his role of RYA Northern Ireland sailability coordinator.

Harper took up the role in 2003 and over the last 18 years he has worked with clubs and centres across Northern Ireland as an advocate for disabled sailing, helping to create and maximise opportunities for sailors, as well as supporting many initiatives and activities.

He helped to establish Belfast Lough Sailability, which has given hundreds of adults and children with any form of disability the opportunity to take up the sport and learn the skill of sailing.

Harper’s dedication was recognised with a prestigious national award in 2010, the RYA Francis Elkin Award.

He is also a keen author and illustrator and has written about his adventures sailing around the world with his wife, Christine.

RYANI’s chief operating officer Richard Honeyford commented: “During his tenure, Bob became well recognised and respected. His enthusiasm and dedication have been a huge asset to our sport and Bob has played a huge role in helping the sailability community grow from strength to strength.

“We now have three dedicated sailability clubs in Northern Ireland and five accredited centres and this is a testament to Bob’s hard work.”

Honeyford added: “Bob led sailability with true commitment and was always approachable and innovative, exploring new opportunities to support sailing.

“On behalf of RYA Northern Ireland, I would like to thank him for the very positive impact he has made on our sport. He will be sorely missed by us all.”

Published in Sailability
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Belfast Lough Sailability held a very successful regatta out of Carrickfergus Marina last Saturday (7th August) and welcomed visitors from Lough Foyle in the North West and Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, making eight boats in all.

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.

A team of qualified disability awareness trainers regularly host awareness events to educate those helping or working with disabled persons.

Winds were light for the event, so racing was shortened to one lap of each race. In the Hanse 303 section Jenna Todd, Paul Green and Stephen Cowan from Belfast won a race each.

Belfast Lough Sailability racing in Hawk dinghiesBelfast Lough Sailability racing in Hawk dinghies

In the Hawks, it was Belfast first, Foyle second and Lough Erne third.

Mid and East Antrim Council sponsored the event.

Racing in the Hanse 303 sectionRacing in the Hanse 303 section

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Belfast Lough Sailability was due to host the President’s Cup in August but sadly, due to COVID 19, this event has had to be postponed.

This interprovincial regatta was Inaugurated by Paralympian John Twomey, promoted by Sailability Ireland and provides anyone with a disability from the 32 counties of Ireland the opportunity to compete on the water and experience the joys of sailing.

Belfast Lough Sailability is based at Carrickfergus Marina and has a wide range of boats for everyone to enjoy but as it is impossible to socially distance while putting on buoyancy aids or lifejackets for people with disabilities, it is postponed until August 2021. As previously reported,  the event was held at the Royal St George last year.

Secretary Anne Taylor says “We will be expecting to have at least 30 boats on the water and I will let you know if we do manage to get back on the water later this year”.

At Carrickfergus, the organisation welcomes group visits from schools and youth groups for children and young people with disabilities, and groups for adults with disabilities.

Published in Belfast Lough
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Today's second day of racing at the Sailability President’s Cup and Hansa National Championships was cancelled in anticipation of more than 20 knots of breeze forecast at the Royal St George Yacht Club on Dublin Bay this morning.

As Afloat reported yesterday, the Ulster team of two Squibs, a Hansa and a 2.4m clinched the overall Presidents Cup Trophy on 36 points, just ahead of the Munster team on 37. 

Just one point separated the first three places in the eighteen strong Hansa fleet. Cara O‘Sullivan (Munster) won the Hansa Nationals in style on just 6 points. Best performing youngest junior girl in the fleet went to Lucy Kinner (Ulster). Best junior boy was awarded to Jack Cunningham (Connaught) and best newcomer to Cian Nolan (Leinster).

The Spirit of Sailability trophy went to Mary Duffy for her determination and sportsmanship for competing solo in very challenging conditions yesterday. 

Special thanks to our sponsors including Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Gold Partner Softcat also Dun Laoghaire based.

Also a huge thank you to all our volunteers, in particular, the buddy sailors, race officers and everyone who has supported the event throughout the weekend.

Royal St George YC Commodore Peter Bowring and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Cathaoirleach Shay Brennan presented the prizes. See photos below:

Sailability 6Cara O'Sullivan, Munster, winner of the Hansa Nationals

Sailability 6Anne Blair Chairman of Belfast lough Sailability collecting the trophy for Team Ulster

Sailability 4Cian Nolan, Leinster wins Best Newcomer Sailability 4Lucy Kinner, Ulster, best performing youngest junior in Hansa

Sailability 4Jack Cunningham, Connaught, wins Best Junior boy

Published in Sailability

This weekend the Royal St George Yacht Club at Dun Laoghaire Harbour is hosting the President’s Cup and Hansa National Championships.

Inaugurated by Paralympian John Twomey this Irish interprovincial regatta is the highlight of the Sailability calendar. Promoted by Sailability Ireland, this competition is to provide anyone with a disability from the 32 counties of Ireland the opportunity to compete on the water and experience the joys of sailing.

Despite the challenging conditions, there was no stopping these determined competitors getting out on the water and completing three races in each fleet.

After day one, the Ulster team of two Squibs, a Hansa and a 2.4m are leading. With Munster hot on their tail, it’s all to sail for tomorrow.

Leading the fleet of 18 Hansas is Emile Moisy (Munster) with two wins. Cara O‘Sullivan (Munster) and Lucy Kinner (Ulster) in close pursuit. Kevin Downing’s Munster crew lead the eight-boat Squib fleet just ahead of Miriam Quinn’s crew (Leinster) and David Johnstone’s crew (Connaught). John Patrick (Ulster) achieved three wins in the highly competitive 2.4 fleet.

A big thanks to all the volunteers, in particular, the team of buddy sailors, rib drivers, race officers and all those who have provided a helping hand behind the scenes.

Published in Sailability
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The RYA is welcoming the launch of a UK-wide disability inclusion campaign and highlighting the benefits of sailing for all participants.

The Activity Alliance’s Who Says? campaign is calling time on negative perceptions about disability, inclusion and sport.

It was created in response to the national charity’s recent research, which explored people’s attitudes on inclusive activity and found that a lack of understanding could be creating long-lasting barriers for people with disabilities.

The findings of the research showed a general lack of awareness, inexperience and unfamiliarity with disabled people although there was a good awareness that sport should be for everyone.

Non-disabled respondents also recognised that they could benefit from taking part in inclusive activities.

However, non-disabled people were concerned about the negative impact taking part together may have on the wellbeing of disabled people.

The top three concerns were that they may patronise disabled people (53%), disabled people may get hurt (47%) or that they may say something inappropriate (37%).

The aim of Who Says? is to empower people to challenge their own and other people’s perceptions through a series of short films.

RYA safeguarding and equality manager Jackie Reid said: “The research shows that certain perceptions around disability in sport should be challenged and it is time for an awareness raising initiative like the Who Says campaign.

“At the RYA we operate on the basis that sailing and boating are open to anyone, no matter what their age or disability and our aim is to facilitate the inclusion of all sailors, whether they want to compete or just have fun on the water.”

The RYA says all of its clubs and training centres should be able to respond appropriately to an enquiry from someone with a disability, and discuss whether they are able to make reasonable adjustments to meet that individual’s needs.

Sailability is the RYA’s national programme in the UK giving people with disabilities the chance to try sailing and to take part regularly.

The British network of more than 200 RYA-approved sailability sites have boats and facilities to cater for people across the whole spectrum of abilities.

RYA sailability manager Joff McGill said: “Challenging perceptions can make a real difference to whether people can get out on the water or not.

“With over 200 locations across the UK, it is easy to get on the water near you and staff and volunteers across the sailability programme are committed to open and positive conversations about what it takes to get each person sailing.

“There are so many benefits – being active, improving wellbeing, new social connections and learning new skills.”

To find out more about sailing opportunities for disabled people, or those that need specific support to get on the water, visit the RYA’s sailability programme web page.

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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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.


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More than 960 volunteers are helping to sustain sailing and boating across Northern Ireland each year, according to the RYA Northern Ireland.

In 2017, over 91,000 people took part in a sailing or boating activity.

And with 9,600 club members, volunteers are vital to keeping the sport alive.

Gemma McCoubrey, a volunteer with Belfast Lough Sailability (BLS), finds dedicating her spare time to the organisation rewarding.

“I first got involved through a member of Carrickfergus Sailing Club, who was also a member of Belfast Lough Sailibility. My husband and I had joined the sailing club as we wanted to develop our sailing skills. We spent an evening volunteering with BLS and loved it,” she says.

“Although we had no personal connection regarding disabilities, we were immediately drawn by the immense satisfaction of helping others.”

Gemma explains that her role is to support the overall aim of BLS and to provide access to waterborne activities for people with disabilities.

She says: “The rewards are seeing the smiling faces and hearing the laughter of participants and of being part of that. It is humbling to see just how they overcome extreme challenges.

“In addition to this, I get the opportunity to work with a great team of likeminded people and the craic is great.”

Gemma tells RYANI that she would recommend others to get involved, and she believes they will also see the rewards.

“I love it and always leave a volunteering session with a big grin on my face. I would absolutely encourage others, regardless of their abilities, to volunteer. I believe it is of benefit to both myself and others.

“It is only a few hours of my time each week, but it has a big impact upon people who get a lot of enjoyment from our support.”

Published in RYA Northern Ireland
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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.