Sailability Photo

Volunteers at the Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron pass on their seafaring skills to people of all abilities and share of freedom that comes with sailing.

Brennan Reid zips up his life jacket and climbs into a small yacht on the Blairgowrie marina. With the sun shining on his face, he looks up with an enormous smile and sails off.

The specialised boats that Brennan has spent the past three years learning to sail at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron are impossible to capsize; they’re designed to share the world of sailing with people regardless of their age or ability.

“I love it when it’s breezy, hearing the birds flying past”, says 22-year-old Brennan, who doesn’t let his intellectual disability get in the way of his favourite pastime.

Under the guidance of program co-director Brian Jones, Brennan has developed the skills to sail solo.

“Sailing a boat is a complicated thing”, says Brian, explaining that it takes good planning to determine wind direction and foresee obstacles. “Brennan’s the only participant in his group who can go out on his own. He’s developed confidence, but also the ability to think ahead”.

When the program began ten years ago, half a dozen seasoned volunteers would spend an hour each session lugging the 60-kilogram boats from the yacht club across the sand to the shore – the program is run mostly by older volunteers determined to get people onto the water and keep the program running. Now, with the help of a floating pontoon, the squadron can store their yachts on the water, meaning a single person can launch the yacht from the pontoon in ten minutes.

“The pontoons are imperative”, Brian says. The pontoon gives Brennan, and other sailors, more time at sea. As the young mariner steers the boat, Brian observes him with pride. “You get a real buzz out of watching guys like Brennan get out there”, he says. “My sister had a disability, so I’ve always been interested in getting people out and active. I see the difference it can make”.

Brennan sails the boat back and volunteers help to return it to the pontoon. The seafarer looks forward to developing his sailing skills in years to come – he is already passing his knowledge on to others.

“I’ve been helping people with their masts and their ropes. I have a big dream to one day sail out to Melbourne” Brennan says, a dream that is not out of reach, thanks to the Blairgowrie Sailability program supported by Yachting Victoria.

To find out more about Sailability options available to you, contact Leslie Fasala from Yachting Victoria on (03) 9597 0066 or 0412 502 395 – email:sailability@yachtingvictoria.com.au  www.yachtingvictoria.com.au