Sailability NSW celebrates 10th Anniversary and International Day of People with a Disability

Graeme Adam, Sailability NSW

To celebrate International Day of People with a Disability (3 December 2005), and its own 10th Anniversary, Sailability NSW took part in an Australia-wide program of cultural and sporting events for people with a disability. "Sailabration" marks the first decade of a grass roots movement dedicated to fostering freedom on the water regardless of ability. The program comprised a fun sail followed by a twilight dinner on the shores of Sydney Harbour for 220 guests. VIP support on the night came from sailing, disability and government circles. Sailability Rushcutters Bay was the host club for the event.

IDPWD posters and balloons from NICAN gave the place a festive air as guests tucked into a hearty meal followed by special awards to every one of the 23 clubs in NSW.

How did the night go? From four of the members who emailed their feedback: "One great big party"É "A fantastic event, everyone had a great time"... "A fantastic evening and a resounding success"... "Tonight has demonstrated that Sailability has arrived".

"Sailabration was an opportunity for the community of sailors with disabilities, volunteers and supporters to contribute to International Day of People with a Disability and to celebrate the abilities of Australians with a disability", says Neil Anderson, President of Sailability NSW.

In 1995, most Sailability dinghies were launched off a beach. Today, boats are floated off ramps, or lifted with cranes. In 1995, sailors with disabilities were carried to their boats. Today, they transfer from pontoons and are lowered with high-tech hoists. In 1995, competition was a splash and a giggle. Today, Australian sailors with disabilities are world-class. Australia won gold at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.

Within Sailability NSW, there are men and women with disabilities who have done amazing things. They include: Lindsay Dalmon (cerebral palsy) winner of Yachting Australia Disabled Sailor Award 2003; Maria Dalmon (cerebral palsy) and Maryanne Ireland (paraplegic), YA awards for competitive sailing; and Jackie Kay (MS) and Phil Vardy (paraplegia) whose trail-blazing work has propelled them to senior positions in Sailability World and International Foundation for Disabled Sailing respectively.

Grahme Rayner, Vice-President Sailability NSW (single amputee), sailed in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and other major ocean races. Don Scott of Sailability Dobroyd and Paul Borg of Gippsland won the International Blind Match Sailing Championship in 2005. Victorian Vinnie Lauers (paraplegic) sailed solo around the world in 2000.

Sailability NSW is the peak body in NSW for sailors who have disabilities and is one of eight state or territory associations which belong to Sailability Australia, part of Yachting Australia. There are 23 branches of Sailability around NSW and 50 across Australia with 16 countries now with national Sailability organizations. Sailability NSW Inc is a registered charity.