Sailing in European waters – UNITED KINGDOM, SPAIN, FRANCE
Sailing in European waters
This is the story of Mike Woods, from the United Kingdom.
He designed and built two wheelchair accessible yachts and has provided over 40,000 sailing places for disabled people so far.
Mike became a wheelchair user after damaging his spine in a motorcycle accident in 1978.
He took up sport for rehab and took that very seriously.
Disabled Sailors Association
He competed for Great Britain in Shot, Javalin, Discus and Archery.
Sports and having a disability is a challenge. Mostly because sports facilities are all too often not accessible.
So Mike set up a charity called the Thomas Morley Trust Disabled Sailors association in 1993 as an umbrella organisation for projects to help disabled people.
The Disabled Sailors Association (DSA) has wheelchair accessible yachts and dinghies available in Portsmouth in the United Kingdom for sailing in the Solent and along the South Coast.
“In the UK we also sail in Southampton and Isles of Wight and along the North Coast of France,” says Mike.
Sailing in Spain
If you prefer sailing in Spain, you can make a boat trip in Murcia (South East Spain) for sailing in the Mar Menor where the weather conditions allow year round sailing.
In Spain there are a number of different sailing dinghies to choose from and volunteers to help you sail them if you need one.
The monohull Verity K is based there. This boat is suitable for a wheelchair user and 3 or 4 others. We can supply a skipper if you need one.
You can live on the yachts, they are 100% accessible!
All the boats are purpose designed and built and allow any type of disability to sail them, to the limit of their ability rather than the limit of the facility.
Both yachts have accessible toilets, berths and cooking facilities so can be lived on too.
There are a number of different dinghies available including one that cannot sink or capsize and another that is capable of 20 knots (that is very fast for a dinghy).
No experience needed
All types of disability and ages are welcome along with family, carers and friends.
It is the policy of the DSA to accept any type of disability. You do not need experience, special clothes or equipment.
Training is available and qualifications can be obtained ranging from RYA to Duke of Edinburg Awards.
In Portsmouth the Spirit of Scott Bader our wheelchair accessible cruising catamaran is 11 meters long and 6 meters wide and very stable. She can take 10 people, 4 of which can be wheelchair users.
A permanent skipper is always there to help you do as much as you want to, you can sail the boat with his coaching or sit back and enjoy the cruise, you choose.
Mike says: “Using all the experience we had gained over five years of providing real sailing for disabled people, in 2000 I designed and built the amazing Ro-Ro catamaran, ‘Spirit of Scott Bader’.”
Sailing is a sport for everyone
We enable wheelchair users to participate in the physical activity of ‘real’ sailing. Sailing is one of the very few sports in which disabled sailors can participate on an equal basis to able-bodied people.
We also support visually impaired, people on the autistic spectrum, amputees and other complex needs. All have sailed with the Disabled Sailors Association and are all welcome.
We do not actually refuse anyone as our yachts are the only ones in the world that a seriously disabled person can actually sail.