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The disability sailing ecosystem

The Andrew Cassell Foundation enables individuals with physical disabilities and impairments to sail competitively on an equal level playing field with and against able bodied sailors, in an inclusive and equal environment in all classes. Part of this article is downloadable as a PDF briefing explaining the foundation’s special responsibility and place in the ecosystem of disabled sailing in England and how we prevent the drain of disabled sailors from the sport.

Independent disabled sailing

The Andrew Cassell Foundation fills a unique niche in the ecosystem of British sailing. We enable people with physical disabilities to develop their sailing skills on level playing field with abled bodied sailors. The Solent provides ready access to friendly racing and this is an ideal space for our sailors to refine new skills and thrive through achievement.

Graphic showing how fragmented provision of disabled sailing development is, and how the Andrew Cassell Foundation plays a unique integrating role
All disabled sailing provision is positive. But the sector is fragmented and many organisations have limited offers. The Andrew Cassell Foundation has a unique integrating role.

All disabled sailing is good sailing

Every organisation getting disabled people on the water is doing valuable and positive work. The Andrew Cassell Foundation isn’t in competition with any other charity in the sector. 

Three disabled sailors sit on the rail or a Sonar keelboat to balance her
Three sailors with disability including Spinal injury, Deafness and Visual impairment drive a Sonar keelboat upwind.

Our offer is unique: We are the only organisation in the UK that offers a pathway for disabled sailors to progress out of disabled specific sailing activity and into whatever discipline of the broader sailing world they choose. Many of our sailors’ rehabilitation journeys take massive steps forward with us and this gives them a new opportunity for direction, employment and a secure future. 

Graphic showing how disabled sailors risk not progressing in sailing due to the difficulty in arranging independent practice
Disabled sailors often struggle to arrange the independent practice expected to consolidate and develop skills between training ladder stages.

Progression on the training ladder is complex for disabled sailors because of the difficulty of independent development. Many specialist providers of disabled access to sailing also only offer development to a certain level. The consequence is that there is massive attrition of disabled sailors though what we call the ’grey gaps’. 

Surviving the grey gap that swallows sailors

Proportionally participating in sailing is likely to consume more of disabled people’s income than that of their abled bodied peers. That cost differential is greatly increased by the mundane costs of disability, e.g. arranging access to accommodation with suitable bathroom facilities, purchasing boat access equipment usable with their disability and the elevated costs of wheelchair accessible vehicles (which often cannot tow a boat because of the way they have been converted). 

Graphic explaining how there is a risk of disabled sailors stopping sailing between the 'learning to sail stage' and becoming independent and valuable members of clubs and classes
Disabled sailors are at significant risk of falling out of the sport between ‘Learning to Sail’ and becoming embedded in a club, class or higher level racing programme.

Independent progression into more serious sailing is particularly difficult for disabled sailors. The Andrew Cassell Foundation helps overcome the grey gap where sailors are lost to the sport. 

A sonar runs downwind out of the river Medina at Cowes with four people on board
Another crew with mixed disability and ability power a Sonar keelboat out of Cowes.

Downloadable briefing

A shorter version of this feature can be downloaded as a briefing pack on the unique role the Andrew Cassell Foundation plays in the English sailing ecosystem.

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Supports people with disabilities (mainly physical & sensory) to take part in yacht racing and cruising and to encourage the integration of sailors with disabilities with able bodied sailors