Welcome to Grafham Water Sailability
Disability should not be a barrier to achievement
Who We Are and What We Do
A friendly, inclusive, sailing club for adults of all ages with a range of different disabilities.
We are an enthusiastic group of sailors who, with the help of our fantastic volunteers enjoy relaxed and leisurely group or solo sailing, and competitive sailing. All at your own pace with as much or as little assistance as you need. We have a Clubhouse with refreshments, indoor and outdoor seating, a changing area and toilet. You can also borrow waterproofs and lifejackets.
Interested?: We welcome new members, email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or to arrange a visit and a free trial sail on a Thursday afternoon (April to October only and subject to weather/covid restrictions). New volunteers are also very welcome.
I was an athlete, in fact, I was a high jumper and then I ended up as a long-distance runner, which is quite a leap from one to the other.
However, when I ended up injured and in a wheelchair, I needed something to replace it, and one day I met Judi Figgures who was the founder of Grafham Water Sailability.
Judi was great and she encouraged me to come and try sailing, and after my first outing on the Challenger I was hooked, and that was it.
Sailing is a great sport, it really is, there’s always a boat out there somewhere that will suit you, no matter what your disability.
I kept looking at this boat, the Drascombe and thinking there must be a way of being able to sit in it. The seating in there is non-existent, and there is no support for anybody with a spinal injury, and then I came across a fantastic seat, and it was actually on a pair of canoes that had been hooked together.
It was a disabled person that was using it, so I found out the details, and mentioned it to the people at the club here, and Kelvin did the magic in fitting it to the Drascombe, and altering some of the bits and pieces on the boat, so that I was able to get out on the water again, which was fantastic!
We couldn’t do it without our helpers. Kelvin has been my mainstay on the Drascombe, but all the helpers here, we couldn’t go sailing without them.
It’s great because you can go out there on the water, and you can forget all about your disability. All your cares go behind you.
A massive stroke means that my left hand doesn't work very well and sailing on my own wasn't an option. However, a winch has now been adapted for me so that I can use both hands on the tiller and still be able to use the joy stick to get the mainsheet in. I can now sail solo on days when there is a reasonable amount of wind and join in with other sailors. I am hoping that at some stage I will get to race and that would be great.
When I'm in the boat I can be independent, which I can't be when I'm not in it. Its lovely and it makes me happy.
Our boats: 12 Challenger trimarans, 2 Hobie Mirage trimarans for individual or buddied sailing, a Drascombe longboat (crewed) for small groups, safety boat, coaching rib.
Challengers are specifically designed for disabled sailors, with safety in mind, while at the same time they can provide an exhilarating experience.
We have a hoist and specially trained staff to assist people who find it hard to get in and out of the boats.
"Sailing sets me free" (a GWS sailor)
You don't need any previous sailing experience to join us. When you start sailing with us, you will have an experienced and knowledgeable sailing buddy sitting alongside you, teaching you how to sail. Once you feel confident, have mastered the basics, and been assessed as having the necessary skills, you will be able to sail solo. There is no pressure to do this. Some sailors will always sail with a buddy, or be more suited to group or hobie cat sailing.
We have a Drascombe long boat which seats up to 6 people (including carers) and 2 experienced crew. This is used by individuals and groups who can experience the pleasure of being out on the water but for whom Challengers or Hobie Cats may not be appropriate.
Hobie Cats as shown in the photo above are designed for two people sailing in tandem, an experienced buddy sits in the back seat, while the sailor is at the front. This enables the sailor to participate in sailing the boat.
Some of our more experienced sailors love the thrill of racing and going to regattas to compete. The club has trailers that can be borrowed for towing boats to competitions. We are hoping to provide a programme of race coaching in 2022. This is not for everyone and you don't have to join in if you don't want to.
Safety and teaching boats
We have two safety/teaching boats. At least one (and usually both) are on the water on Thursday afternoons. They are crewed by qualified safety boat staff. All sailors have radios to enable them to contact the safety boats or the Beachmaster if they need to.
A very successful Grafham Water Sailability Regatta took place 11/12 June 2022 and was much enjoyed by all who took part.
David Campbell Memorial Race 20 October 2022
More details to follow.
In the winter we have a programme of teaching and social events, including Christmas lunch at the local pub.
July 2022 - unfortunately low water levels mean that sailing is currently severely restricted. We hope to plan some training sessions until the water level rises.
We have a fantastic team of willing volunteers, who help with everything from rigging, launching and retrieving the boats to maintenance and repairs. We also have volunteers who organise refreshments, clean the clubhouse and arrange social events both in and out of season. Volunteers who want to help in running the club or who have relevant sailing qualifications are very welcome too. GWS is delighted to announce that in August 2022 one or our longest serving volunteers has been awarded an RYA Community Award for Lifetime Commitment.
Additionally, we receive excellent support from local Rotary clubs and their members.
If you would like to come along and give us a hand, you don't need any particular skills apart from enthusiasm, we would very much like to meet you.
Volunteer Application Form (PDF 68KB)
We have a great clubhouse where sailors gather after sailing on Thursday afternoons to grab tea, coffee and doughnuts while they chat over who got wettest (!) or who caught the biggest gust or wind. There is a changing area which is big enough to take a wheelchair, and a toilet suitable for all. On warm days, it is lovely to sit out on the terrace to watch all the activity out on the water.
Cost for 2022 : Individual membership £35 per year (no other sailing costs except if you take part in a Regatta), Group membership £70. Volunteers join as Associate Members £2 per year.
All Associate Members must have a current DBS check (within the last three years). This can be arranged for you through the RYA at no cost to yourself.
Information for Sailors
In this section you will find more information about sailing with us. In the interests of safety, all sailors and volunteers are expected to be aware of the Club's Safety & Operating Procedures. SOME DOCUMENTS CURRENTLY BEING UPDATED
We get a huge amount of generous support from local Rotary Clubs for which we are extremely grateful. The Clubs have a rota, so every Thursday you will find a different group of friendly volunteers helping us out.
We are delighted that two generous donations from Rotary Clubs have allowed us to replace one of our old wooden picnic tables. The new table is made from recycled plastic and is maintenance free. It has seating for four plus an extended top to allow wheelchair access. We hope to be able to buy another table next year.
GWS benefits from affiliation with the RYA which offers advice and support not only for Sailability clubs, but also in encouraging people with disabilities to get out on the water and discover the thrill of sailing. You might like to have a look at the website: rya.org.uk/start boating/sailability for further information.
Requesting Your Support
Since it was founded in 2005, Grafham Water Sailability's success in helping adults with disabilities in the community has been made possible thanks to people like you. We are a charity which receives no funding from statutory bodies. The Club obtains funding through the efforts of its own members and our Rotary supporters, from organisations and individuals. Grateful thanks to all those who have, and who continue to, support us.
With your generous contribution, no matter how great or small, we are able to make a difference, whether it is providing fuel for the safety boats, replacing old sailing equipment, or providing waterproof clothing.
We are grateful for any help you can give.