Sailing programs for people with disabilities

If you think sailing a boat is difficult, imagine doing it without your sight. That’s exactly what 33-year-old Perth sailor, Kylie Forth achieved, when she won the Blind Match Racing World Championships in the US in 2015.


When Forth was three-years old, cancer took her sight away. At nine, she lost her right leg to the disease. Today, Forth is conquering the water, sailing with the Royal Perth Yacht Club’s Sailability program.


Forth told ABC news.


“That’s the amazing thing about sailing; it’s the most inclusive sport there is because once you’re in a boat, you are just another sailor,” she said.

“You can have abled and disabled people, sighted or blind, old or young — everybody sailing together equally on the same course and having just as much of a chance to do well in the race.


Sailing with disabilities in WA

Sailability is just one of the programs available for people with disabilities, who want to sail. The program uses a number of different vessels, from sturdy two-person dinghies to 20-footers. All sailing takes place in protected waters.


There’s also a safety boat on hand, and trained volunteers with many years of experience. The Sailability program is available to individuals, regardless of their mobility, ability or circumstances. It’s run Wednesday mornings from 9 to midday. The season started on 16 October.


If you’re interested in having a go, take a look at the not-for-profit’s website and contact Liz Warman on 0419 949 006. They’re also looking for on-shore and on-water volunteers (you’ll need boating skills to be on the water). So get in touch if this interests you.


Australia-wide sailing opportunities

Disability Sports Australia (DSA) is the peak national body for athletes with a physical disability. DSA provides a point of contact between partner organisations and members, to ensure athletes of all levels are able to develop their skills.


According to the DSA website’s sailing page:


This sport is open to athletes with a limb loss / limb deficiency, cerebral palsy / brain injury, vision impairment, spinal and nerve injuries and other physical impairments.  The objective is for athletes to compete on a set course and post the fastest time.


DSA also goes into the different classes of parasailing, including requirements for classification. A classification is necessary before a sailor can compete. This is done by registering with your local association, and then demonstrating your skills to an approved classifier.


Below are contacts for sailing clubs in your state or territory, who run events and competitions for parasailers.


Yachting NSW
(02) 8073 4900


Yachting QLD
(07) 3393 6788


Yachting Victoria
(03) 9597 0066


Yachting Tasmania


Yachting SA
(08) 8346 1934

Yachting WA
(08) 9386 2438

Yachting ACT
(02) 6273 4777

Yachting Northern Territory
(08) 898 55914


Don’t want to compete?

Of course, if you don’t want to race, or don’t feel you’re ready to, then joining a club to learn and enjoy the sport is just as fun. On the East Coast of Australia, Sailors with Disabilities runs an amazing program for those affected by disadvantage or disability.


The not-for-profit organisation believes that sailing is a catalyst for change in people’s lives, as well as a tool to boost confidence, self-esteem and build new relationships. In their own words: Through sailing, people start to forget about what they can’t do and focus on what they can.


If you’re in WA, we highly recommend the Sailability program we spoke about earlier. If you’re  location is not covered by the programs we have mentioned so far, we recommend phoning the sailing club in your state or territory (listed above) and asking for a referral to a program near you.


If you know of a great sailing program in your area, please let us know! We love to spread the word about opportunities around WA and Australia-wide. Leave a comment on our Facebook page, or right here on our blog.


Happy sailing!