Up to 75 sailors with disabilities have now signed up to tackle the choppy waters of Tauranga Harbour with Sailability Tauranga.
The group was formed in 2016 by former Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club Commodore Peter Dallimore, now Chairman of the Sailablity Tauranga Charitable Trust. They now have a small fleet – Hansa class 303 boats – and 50 volunteers committed to giving people with disabilities the opportunity to sail.
Early in May 2018, the group held its first Sailors Award Ceremony. Sailors were awarded certificates for individual achievements, such as courage, perseverance, taking the helm, regular attendance and going solo.
“For some, just getting into a boat was a challenge, to steer a boat an even bigger achievement and to sail solo is a massive step forward. It gives us all a great sense of fulfilment and joy to see the beaming smiles of our sailors as they come back into the dock after an hour on the water,” Peter says.
Since Sailability Tauranga purchased its own sailing dinghies in late 2017, it has been able to offer group bookings to community organisations. Of its 75 registered sailors, half sail on a regular basis. They come from a variety of organisations, including IHC/IDEA Services, The Blind Foundation, The Stroke Foundation, Tauranga Special School, Geneva Health and many privately enrolled sailors.
Rhonda Ritchie, the Club Captain, says the group sails on four days each month in summer and for two days a month in winter. Each session is an hour long. On top of that, it runs a separate programme for schools. It has recently engaged with three secondary school special education units. Trial sailing days have been held with the view to channelling the students either into its regular sailing programme or setting up regular schools sailing days.
Expanding its sailing opportunities in the future depends on being able to recruit and train suitable volunteers to operate safely on Tauranga Harbour’s exposed and challenging environment. “We do not have any sheltered sailing areas so our current fleet is always accompanied by at least two patrol boats requiring two crew members each and we will have to add a further patrol boat as our numbers increase.”
Funding provided by the IHC Foundation has helped to provide safety equipment, including a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) and motors.