MORE than 100 sailors, competing in over 70 boats, the UK’s biggest disability sailing event of its kind took place at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA).

The RYA Sailability Multiclass Regatta has evolved over the years and is now a real festival for disabled sailing and a celebration of the impact sailing can have.

Ten classes of boat, many of which have been adapted to enable people with disabilities to compete on a ‘level playing field’ were included.

The Blind Sailing team – consisting of Lucy Hodges, Ben Hazeldine, Eddie Kitchen and Martin Phillips – sailing in an Elliot 6M keelboat, won the Keelboat League and were awarded the prestigious Ken Ellis trophy finishing first place in the Pursuit Race.

Tom Hepburn, 15, is a wheelchair user from Wyke Regis who sails with Chesil Sailability and was one of the club’s two youth members competing, said: “Sailing has given me a lot of freedom. I can go anywhere in the harbour I choose to go pretty much, which is different to how I feel in my day-to-day life.”

The event provides a whole host of opportunities for participants of varying abilities to get out on the water.

About 25 volunteers from Chesil Sailability provided the essential transfer assistance on the pontoon, transferring people, many of them wheelchair users needing a hoist, from the shore to the water and back again.

Hugh de Longh, vice-chairman of Chesil Sailability said: “We are a small voluntary group, but we aimed to rise to the challenge of transferring people from one to the other at a very high level of service.”

RYA Sailability manager, Joff McGill added: “This year’s regatta was our biggest and best so far.

“Along with the exciting fleet racing and the annual Ken Ellis Pursuit Race, the event allows those who have never even been on the water before to give it a go and experience the freedom that being on the water brings.”

The class winners, who included south-west sailors from Chesil Sailability and Whitefriars Sailability, were:

Random pairs team racing:

Liberty winner: Chris Atkins, Hanningfield Sailability

303 winner: Bob Waters, Waveney Sailability and Timothy Hall, Chesil Sailability

RS Venture Connect: Thomas Harper and Michael Harper, Chesil Sailability

Access Liberty: David Durston, Whitefriars Sailability

Hansa 303 single: Defending champion Mike Everitt, Frensham Pond Sailing Club, retained his title

Hansa 303 double: Natalia Hillman and Alan Hillman

Challenger: Defending champion Valerie Millward, Rutland Sailability, retained her title

Hansa 2.3: Defending champion Lindsay Burns, Frensham Pond Sailing Club, retained her title

Skud18: Lynne Swan and Stu Swan, Weston Sailing Club

2.4mR: Megan Pascoe, Frensham Pond Sailing Club

Weta: Chris Hodge and Tony McCoy, Sussex Sailability

An event organiser said: “Thank you to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly to make the event possible, including hosts Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.”

“Thanks also go to the local support teams including: Chesil Sailability, the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre, the OTC, and the Miss Isle Sailing School.”

Sailability is the national programme run by sailing’s governing body, the RYA, giving people with disabilities the chance to try sailing and to take part regularly.

To find out more about sailing opportunities for disabled people, visit