Disabled sailors from Frensham Pond Sailing Club (FPSC) returned to the water in February to sail for the first time since the lockdown which started in December.

With a southerly wind gusting up to 30 mph the conditions were quite a challenge for sailors who had not been able to exercise since before Christmas. There were big smiles as the sailors returned to the jetties, albeit with tired arms.

Kate Hedley, a disabled sailor commented: “What a wonderful afternoon, no thought of life’s struggles, just an afternoon dancing with the wind. It’s the only time I’m free from my disability”.

“Couldn't have asked for better weather. Had a great few hours sailing. Can't tell you how much this meant, physically and mentally”, a sentiment expressed by Nev Millard, another wheelchair bound sailor.

During the lockdown organised outdoor sport for disabled people was permitted. The Government recognises lockdown restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the health and wellbeing of disabled people because of the barriers they face in taking part in physical activity. Organised sport provides opportunities for disabled people to get exercise.

FPSC operates in a Covid secure environment and follows guidance from the Government and the RYA. The number of volunteers is limited to enable effective social distancing, as well as the use of PPE when social distancing is not possible.

The club is entirely run by local volunteers who are passionate about their sport. It has a great history of coming together to support its members and now counts over 100 disabled people, who sail specially adapted boats, amongst its membership. During lockdown the volunteers’ enthusiasm is having a really positive benefit through giving disabled members exercise, routine, and purpose.

Megan Pascoe, Commodore of FPSC said: “Many of us have the ability to be physically active but many can't. It was a pleasure to help get our disabled members on the water and exercising. It is not easy organising anything in lockdown and I'm very proud of our committee and especially Kate Whyatt for organising this.”

Councillor Liz Townsend, Waverley Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Parks and Leisure said: “It has been a really stressful time for us all during lockdown and not being able to enjoy our normal exercise regime has often added to that stress especially for those in our community who rely on this to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing. It is wonderful to see that FPSC has been able to get its disabled sailors back out on the water safely and securely again. I very much hope that we will all soon be able to return to all of our chosen sports and start enjoying the wonderful outdoor space and facilities that Waverley has to offer.”

Organised sessions for disabled sailors will be on Thursdays and Saturdays until lockdown restrictions are relaxed, and regular sailing re-commences.

RYA Sailability is the leading UK programme for disabled sailing. Over 60000 people with a disability have been able to experience sailing, with around 18000 becoming regular participants at some 200 sites across the UK.

Find out more about FPSC and RYA Sailability

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