Princess Royal Sailing Club
Written by Chris Lee from the Princess Royal Sailing Club
The Sailability program at the Princess Royal Sailing Club (PRSC) started in 2005 when Commodore Dr David Watson contacted Royal Perth Yacht Club (RPYC) and the Lower Great Southern Community Living Association (LGSCLA) to start a sailing program for people with disabilities.
RPYC started Sailability WA (SWA) as a continuation of the international Sailability movement founded in the UK and it is now conducted in more than 20 countries. The program has some 350 clubs throughout the World. As a starting gift, RPYC generously donated two Access 2 person dinghies to PRSC.
During 2005/06 the first Sailability course to train instructors was completed, using a grant of $7,306 from Disability Services Commission following a LGSCLA grant application. Nine volunteers attended the course over 2 weekends.
Trial sailing classes commenced in the 2007/08 season. The shallow water in front of the Club made boarding the dinghies difficult. Wheel chair bound (high needs) participants had to be carried some 80m out to where the boats could float. The PRSC marina's fixed height jetties made it dangerous to board volunteers’ keel-boats from existing facilities. During these early difficulties RPYC indicated their floating Sailability pontoon was to become redundant in a major marina upgrade at their Club. Discussions resulted in its transfer as an asset to PRSC, as part of their continued support of SWA to assist its development in Albany.
In 2008/09 the floating jetty was transported to Albany plus a further gift of an additional two Access 1 person dinghies and a small GRP run-about.
In 2009 following meetings between SWA, RPYC and PRSC it was decided a Sailability program would be established in Albany at PRSC with PRSC providing the services of a part time secretary and other administrative support.
In July 2010 PRSC was successful with their funding application to Lotterywest who generously provided $20,300 towards the installation of the floating jetty pontoon. The Club arranged for two piles to be driven to allow the floating jetty to be assembled and properly installed, and it was opened in December 2010.
The pontoon equipment was in place for the start of the 2011 season providing safer boarding of volunteer members private keel boats. It has also allowed the current two Access 2 person training dinghies to be utilised.
In February 2011 a regular weekly Sailability program commenced and continued for 30 weeks to September. The program was restricted to 10 participants due to limitations of keel boats, participant sailing knowledge, pontoon restrictions and no boarding facilities for “high needs” participants available. There were 10 regular sailors, 12 support workers, 4 agencies, 22 volunteers and 4 volunteer yachts, for a total of 167 sailor trips.
A generous grant from SWA and the Macquarie Bank of $10,000, allowed the purchase of a new hydraulic hoist (enabling those with high needs to participate) plus additional life jackets and a trolley to move all equipment from storage to the pontoon.
In 2012, the weekly program continued from February to October, with more than double the participants registered, 32 (inc. 4 high with needs), 28 support workers and 9 Agencies. This large increase meant a reduction in trip times from 2 hours to 1 hour, with boats undertaking two trips and some participants rotating on a fortnightly basis. Three additional yachts volunteered by Club members helped with the high needs sailors plus the increased numbers. Now in 2017 we have a total of 3 keelboats, 2x303 special dinghies and 2x 2.4 Olympic class racing boats and a rescue boat.
We have also built a multi purpose shed and training room and integrated our program with the junior section of the club on Saturdays. The floating pontoon has been replaced with a new one which is more suitable for our purposes.
The program runs twice a week on Thursdays from the end of January to the end of June each year, and on Saturdays from September to Easter.
At the moment we have 20 people in the Thursday program and 10 in the Saturday program. These people usually attend with a carer.
We also have around 50 volunteers on our list of which around 30 are engaged each week.
The club has had an increase in membership both Sailability Members, Social Members and Full Members in recent years.
The program has been very successful and whilst numbers have remained constant at our capacity our equipment and infrastructure has improved over the years. This program is very important for the people who take part and has resulted in several people moving on to mainstream club sailing activities.
We have recently purchased a suitable boat for taking out Fishers with disabilities. At the moment we are planning to do this once a month but due to delays with getting the boat here from the north of the state we have not yet started. This boat will be an ideal shared facility for fishing, power boat cruising and as a general start/rescue boat for the club.
The program has been a wonderful thing for inclusion, for the club in general and especially for our older members who form the bulk of our volunteers.