"Leave your handicap and keep the wind in your sails"

“Leave your handicap and keep the wind in your sails”

Four colorful Dinky sailboats are moored at the jetty at the Watersports Association Viking Port in S-Hertogenbosch. Falsified by the volunteers of the Sailabilty Foundation who do their best to give people with disabilities a comfortable time in Ertveldplas.

Sailability is an organization that facilitates sailing for people with disabilities in the water sports federations in the Netherlands. One of the eighteen affiliated associations is WSV Viking in Ertveldplas, where volunteers coordinate the organization of Sailability. “Each season, several sailing days are planned to introduce people with disabilities to sailing,” says Margot Walt, sailing coordinator for WSV Viking. “Whether you want to learn how to sail on your own or just want to enjoy a day on the water under expert guidance.” The single and double sailboat is easy to operate by yourself and has an extra long keel, making it virtually impossible to tip over. Participants register individually on the day of sailing and do not have to be WSV Viking members.

Soothing sailing
This is the first time participant Evo Smits, 45, has not worn a raincoat this morning as a precaution. It’s a beautiful sunny day in Bossche Harbour. Evo is confined to a wheelchair due to MS and only has 5 percent of vision. It’s the fourth season that Evo has signed up for in sailing days: “I always look forward to it. Even though there wasn’t much wind today, we still went out on the lake.” Evo ended up in Sailability through his old swimming club where Jan Polstra, initiator of Sailability at WSV Viking, was the chairman. “I’ve never sailed before but I’ve started doing it. I’ve found that sailing is actually very zen and soothing. The winds in Ertveldplas are always different, so it’s still hard to get wind in your sails.”

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For Margot, volunteering was born at a young age. With the necessary sailing experience at WSV Viking and as a social worker for people with an acquired brain injury or physical disability, working as a Sailability volunteer aligns with this seamlessly. “All the volunteers are here from their heart and for fun. There is always a nice family atmosphere at the club. We are happy to offer the participants a fun day out on the water. To be able to continue to organize and expand these sailing days, we are looking for enthusiastic volunteers.” In addition to planning and organizing sailing days, Margot regularly enters the boat as a supervisor, as is co-Huib. “Eleven years ago, I had a brain haemorrhage,” explains Hoeib, 54. “I’ve been sailing a lot, so I already know a lot about it. I’ve been sailing with Sailability for three years now and it’s going really well.”

Safe and accessible
Sailability volunteers provide a hospitable reception, materials, and orientation to participants on the beach and on the water. Margot: “We have a winch at the jetty, and the sailboats are always accompanied by two lifeboats. Participants and volunteers on the water wear life jackets. Swimming certification is only required for the supervisors and of course for the lifeboat crew.” The adapted sailboat can be easily operated by the participants themselves or by the supervisor. “Given all the precautions and experienced instructors, I have never been afraid to sail here,” says Ivo. “I built a pilot sail. From first steering only with the rudder to operating the mainsail and jib with two ropes.” At the harbor entrance, a seaworthy welcome sign reads “Leave your handicap at the pier.” Evo: “And that is it; I leave the wheelchair behind and have a nice day. Of course you have to keep the wind in your sails, or you will not go forward.”

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Would you like to register as a volunteer or participant in the Sailabilty at WSV Viking in ‘s-Hertogenbosch? then look at www.sailability.nl Or contact Margot Wallet via
Phone number 06-40 17 31 46 or send an email to [email protected].

Source: Marjolijn van Spaandonk / Unique Sports

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