21 years on, there are now 76 Sailability programs across the country
In 1994, inspired by the pioneering work of RYA Sailability in the UK, Sailability Australia was formed by all State/Territory Yachting Associations as a standing committee of AYF (now Yachting Australia).
Distinguished disabled sailor and scientist Dr Phil Vardy was appointed Coordinator and later Chairman of the National Sailability Committee. Phil was followed by round the world sailor Kay Cottee, then by Bruce Dickson (former President AYF), handing over to Neil Anderson, (former president Sailability NSW) in 2012.
Committee members are nominated by Yachting Australia member yachting associations as well as two specialist delegates co-opted by YA. Historically, members have tended to be drawn from state Sailability Associations. The committee meets at least once a year, facilitated and participated in by Yachting Australia.
The coming together of like minds provides the opportunity to exchange valuable ideas and experience but also to collaborate on useful initiatives, such as the “Towards a National Approach” Report, the YA/ASC –supported National Sailability Conference, the Inclusive Club Standard (Yachting Victoria), the stronger Sailability presence on Yachting Australia websites and the annual magazine “Freedom”.
From just a handful in 1994, there are now some 76 Sailability programs operating across Australia.
According to Neil Anderson, the success is a combination of collaboration between states, fostered by Yachting Australia and the efforts of hundreds of volunteers at sailing clubs in local communities. “Thousands of Australians have had the joy of experiencing ‘sailing for everyone’. But above all, what drives the Sailability family is the vision to make sailing truly inclusive, so every sailing club in Australia welcomes sailors of all abilities.”
Matt Carroll, CEO of Yachting Australia added his comments: “The broader Sailability network has done a fantastic job of getting thousands of people with a disability out on the water. This has been made possible through the dedication, passion and commitment of the volunteers who give their time at the scores of programs located throughout the country. The leadership and support of this committee and the underpinning State Sailability committees has also been extremely valuable during this time.
“Yachting Australia looks forward to continuing to support Sailability and the wider club network in maximising the opportunities for all people to be a part of the wonderful sport of sailing. This could include participating on the water, volunteering, administering, coaching and leading the sport.
“On behalf of the Yachting Australia Board, I congratulate Sailability and everyone involved on this milestone and thank all those who have contributed to the growth of this inspirational program over the past twenty one years around the country.”