RYA Sailability was set up by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) to give adults and children with any form of disability the opportunity to take up the sport and learn the skill of sailing.
Belfast Lough Sailability is a non-profit organisation run entirely by a team of dedicated volunteers who assist in the co-ordination of activities as well as enabling people living with disabilities to get afloat. It was established in September 2001, received charitable status in May 2002 and continues to provide inclusive recreational opportunities for families and individuals. We rely on the support of the community and contributions from organisations to raise the necessary funds to purchase essential equipment and boats along with day to day running costs.
Since Belfast Lough Sailability was established, our fleet has been increased from the initial two Squib keelboats to our current fleet of six Hansa 303s, a Skud 18, two safety boats, a displacement boat, a Sea Rover 21, three Hawk 20’s, three kayaks and three 2.4-Metres – see the Our Boats page for more details.
Our aim is to train, educate and encourage more people living with disabilities onto the water. We are an RYA Recognised Training Centre, and have our own RYA qualified instructors as well as a team of RYA qualified disability awareness trainers who regularly host awareness events to educate those helping or working with people living with disabilities.
Some of our members, who themselves have disabilities, have gone on to gain coaching awards and are now passing on their skills. One such member is Steve Frecknall, a recent Management Committee member who is a wheelchair user: “I joined the group back in 2001 and since then I’ve gained my Royal Yachting Association Keelboat Instructor Certificate and a considerable amount of on the water experience. It’s a great feeling being able to give something back to the sport that has really changed my life.” Another is Elizabeth Black who, together with Bill Foster, organises our RYA Disability Awareness courses. For more personal thoughts on BLS check out our Testimonials page.
Belfast Lough Sailability has grown rapidly in recent years and is exceptional in that it provides an activity not only for the disabled or disadvantaged individual but also for the whole family unit. People who think they can’t even get on a boat, let alone sail it, have the chance to have a go. We offer Access to the Water, in particular the waters of beautiful Belfast Lough.
(Header photo: Ronnie Moore)