Nfld. & Labrador

Sailing can be accessible, and this group is proving it on Regatta Day

Able Sail NL helps people with physical and mental obstacles sail and row, and they’ll be performing during the Regatta.

A non-profit for the differently abled is holding a special demo at the Regatta

Two sailors set out on an adventure with Able Sail NL, a new local non-profit. (Matt Debicki)

Being on the water is a privilege for some. Physical and mental barriers can keep many prospective athletes from joining in on the summer fun as they watch the boats set out to row in the regatta on Quidi Vidi Lake.

One new non-profit organization is changing that this week, and will be out on the water for all to see during the regatta's lunch break on Wednesday.

"We're making sailing accessible to everyone we can, from people with physical disabilities to mental disabilities or even financial [barriers] that are in the way of going sailing," says Matt Debicki, president of Able Sail NL.

For the famous Royal St. John's Regatta, the group will be using two boats — one of which is specially made. 

'Anybody can come sailing'

"We're gonna be sailing with things called access sailing dinghies, and they're specially adapted for people with disabilities. And then we're also gonna have a twenty-niner out there, which is just an Olympic-class racing boat, and we're gonna go out and try to show people that anybody can come sailing, no matter what your disabilities." 

Matt Debicki is the president of Able Sail NL, a new non-profit that's taking people with physical and mental obstacles sailing during the regatta in St. John's. (Noah Laybolt/CBC)

The access sailing dinghy has a few features that make it usable for people of differing abilities. 

"The difference is they have a lot of weight at the bottom of the dagger board, which makes it so they can't flip over. They're what's called inherently stable. And then on top of that, we've got a bunch of control systems that are much easier to use for people with disabilities," he said. 

Debicki and his team will be setting up beside the boathouse at Quidi Vidi Lake at 11 a.m. and will be on the water until 2 p.m. 

The boat can only hold two people at a time, so they'll be making plenty of trips to take their participants out for a spin.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Noah Laybolt is a freelance journalist in St. John's.

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