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Bex Foulsham: profile

Bex’s Autism and other disabilities means they approach sailing in a particular way and has limited them to supported activity, but with the Foundation’s help they are developing into an increasingly competent keelboat sailor capable of sailing in open regattas with and against a mixture of able bodied and disabled sailors.

With support of the Foundation, they participated in Cowes Week for the first time in 2023, saying: “Coming towards the end of Cowes Week – if you asked me 4 years ago would you do Cowes week I would have been like ‘no, its massive, overwhelming’… So its a huge achievement to have finished it and to be in a boat that was competing towards the top”.

The image is divided in two vertically on the right a sailing boat sails towards the camera with three intent crew staring forwards. The sea is green and there is a hazy blue sky
Dolphin ACF 602 Jazz Turner, Johnathan Evans, Louise Timoney and Bex Foulshamz

Bex’s passion for the sport of sailing when they were a young teenager on a residential sailing activity with the Island Trust in Plymouth who specifically work with people with special needs and disabilities as well as those experience deprivation. This passing encounter turned Bex into a sailor, and convinced them, their parents and educators that the sport could be a route to independence and a wider experience of the world. With the help of Oxford Sailability, and a supporter in the boat over the course of the next year, they learnt to sail the Hansa 2.3 and to be able to make this training boat achieve its maximum. They reflect that by the end of that time they had more independence and skills on the water than they had in many other parts of their life.

Convinced that sailing was a route to transformation, they joined Dorchester Sailing Club and worked through a series of dinghies including the RS Tera, Argo and the Topper, progressing through the RYA’s youth syllabus of stages 1-3, being ready for stage 4 when Covid hit. The transformation Bex had achieved over 18 months led to them winning the Sailability Sailor of the Year Award in 2020, at which they met Jazz Turner, another of the Foundation’s current sailors, and she became a friend and mentor.

Two years later in 2022 Bex started University where they found the university club, to their credit, welcoming and adaptable to their needs as a disabled sailor. Bex and Jazz shared a difficult experience with another disability sailing charity, leading to her suggesting Bex calls the Andrew Cassell Foundation to explore options with them. This led to Bex training with and competing with the Foundation at Cowes Week in 2023.

Bex said: “I noticed I was really comfortable around everyone. It was nice I was being included right from the start and it wasn’t just ‘that’s it you can go back to your accommodation’. It was really nice that people were talking me to as an adult … I already felt completely part of ACF.”

Bex’s Autism meant they had justifiable anxiety about Cowes Week, which was an entirely different scale and type of racing to that which they’d previously encountered. They turned this to good by researching the course chart and watching old video streams of the starts off the Castle at Cowes. They say that getting an idea of the structure and likely areas of racing helped them. During the week Bex pays credit to one of the Foundations volunteers, Louise who sailed with them and ‘who was really supportive and… was amazing.’

Bex said “If you asked me 4 years ago ‘would you do Cowes week? I would have been like ‘no, it’s massive, overwhelming’; I’d never really sailed on yachts (or keelboats). So it’s a huge achievement to have finished it and to be in a boat that was competing towards the top. Towards the end we were working so much better.”

A sailboat with a spinnaker flying sails from left to right on a green sea with a hazy blue sky. the land is a low line running along at the same level as the boat
Dolphin ACF 602 Jazz Turner, Johnathan Evans, Louise Timoney and Ben Foulsham

Bex finished by talking about their objectives and ambitions saying ‘for me the Andrew Cassell Foundation is a really good stepping stone where I’m able to move toward the competitive areas of racing that I didn’t think I’d be moving towards. That’s really what ACF enable’s me to do.’ Bex says they want to continue to compete at higher and higher levels, and with ACF they hope to develop sailing and social skills to enable them to ‘compete at world championships and competing better and achieving higher results at them.’

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