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The longest running continuous Sailability scheme in Wales, to help people with a disability go sailing, is celebrating it’s 12th anniversary, while one of the groups behind it celebrates their fiftieth.

The Innovate Trust, who are also celebrating their 50th anniversary, RYA Cymru Wales and the Cardiff Harbour Authority have been running the Sailability scheme through Cardiff Sailing Centre at Channel View in Cardiff Bay for people with a disability go sailing in a safe environment. 

People travel from all round South Wales, including Professor Nigel Stott from Swansea who has been taking part for 6 years after suffering viral myocarditis which led to a stroke while working at the medical school in the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff.

Another participant Gareth Williams has been taking part most weeks throughout the 12 years the scheme has been running. Steve Williams, acting participation manager for the Innovate Trust, who was involved from the beginning 12 years ago, explained, “It started in a new scheme called Venture Out.

“They had money from the lottery to purchase these dinghies, which is where the partnership started with the Harbour Authority and Anthony Chappin.

“We started it under the guise of accessible sailing. Around half of those taking part are in a wheelchair, but it is no different for people with learning difficulties or mobility issues. People can turn up stressed, but then being out on the water relaxes them.

“It is brilliant for people. It was providing the community in South Wales with something maybe they could not normally access.

“There is one gentleman Gareth, a wheelchair user, and the only time he has not been here in the last 12 years is if he is on holiday or ill. We have just had a letter from his mother Jill thanking everyone for giving him joy.

“The training we have received through Anthony and his team, with help from the Harbour Authority, Channel View and RYA Cymru Wales has been excellent. It is great to work together, this is one of the best partnerships we have ever had.”

The value of the scheme was backed by Mary Stott, the wife of Professor Stott, who said, “Nigel sailed from the age of 12 and almost got to national level in the Finn class, so this is much more gentle than he was used to.

“We used to live in Cardiff so it is nice to come back from Swansea, he does Bikeability cycling round our village, does hydrotherapy, so he keeps very active. He is very physically strong for his age.

“Our son found this scheme six years ago and Nigel has really enjoyed the chance to come back to sailing.”

His success shows the scheme can work for people who are experienced sailors before a life-changing event, as well as those new to the sport.

Williams has no doubt about the benefits of sailing as a sport. “I have been working in this area for 25 years and what we found was people feel better when they are out in the community in the right environment – your blood pressure lowers, you enjoy fresh air and just feel better,” he said.

“When they have learned to control the boat themselves that independence gives them such a boost through the good feeling of being in control. Learning a skill is a confidence builder.

“The calmness that comes from being out there is why we have kept it going after lottery funding finished a few years ago, along with the other activities we offer.

“We are celebrating 50 years this year in the Innovate Trust. We celebrate the sailing every year, continuing to push this as an activity we offer.”

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