“Wheels on the Dock” Helps Sailors Leave Cares and Disabilities Behind

More sailors, yacht clubs, and community sailing programs are learning how to share the freedom and joy of sailing with people with disabilities, thanks to your support and a team of dedicated volunteers.

When Sam Graber, a Board member at Challenged Sailors of San Diego, pitched the idea to US Sailing of a webinar to highlight adaptive sailing, he thought that a maximum of twenty people might register. Little did he know that more than 100 would sign up! Nor did he think it would become a four-part webinar series.

Your support is enabling US Sailing to develop conduits of communication like this to connect with sailors across the country, share information and ideas, and grow the sport.

In Part 1 of “Wheels on the Docks,” Sam introduced renowned adaptive sailing experts (and sailing rock stars) Betsy Alison and Jane Dunn. This dynamic duo shared an overview of the why, how, and where of adaptive sailing programs.

“Sailing is fun. It’s therapeutic. And it’s something that all people can participate in,” Jane said, who is co-founder and former president of Challenged Sailors of San Diego. “And a sailor who has the correct adaptations can sail on par with anybody else on the water.

“The most important thing about working with people with disabilities is communicating with your sailor. They will help you set the direction.”

Whether you want to start an adaptive sailing program or just want to learn about how to take a friend who has a disability out on your boat, this series can help and guide you.

The second session in the series focused more on the details of transfers, lifts, and types of boats. Betsy Alison, a five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and 2023 Para Sailing World Champion who has been coaching sailors with disabilities for more than 25 years, shared numerous photos, showing many of the ways you can include adaptive sailing in your programs.

Again, the key message was to listen to your sailors. They will have the most knowledge about the adaptations they need to be successful. “Be prepared for your sailors,” said Jane. “Experiment, be creative, and have a good time. Don’t let it be intimidating!”

Session three focused on two areas: adaptations for sailors who have disabilities that are not related to mobility and how to leverage social media to promote your adaptive/inclusive sailing program.

Recordings of the first three webinars are available for free online so you can watch and listen at your convenience, here. You can also sign up for the next session, which will be held on May 7th, at the same link.

The fourth and final webinar will explore ways to encourage adaptive sailors to engage in competitive sailing as well as share information about existing clinics and competition events with the webinar participants.

If you’re interested in helping to get people of all abilities out on the water, check out the Adaptive Sailing section of our website, or contact Betsy Alison directly at BetsyAlison@USSailing.org.