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Byron Shire
May 14, 2021

As long as we can sail away…

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MAYDAY – MAYDAY – One hundred years ago today

One hundred years ago this week, around noon on Saturday 14 May 1921, the 2,000 tonne steamship Wollongbar ran aground on Belongil beach.

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Sailing is one of the most liberating activities you can do. The feeling of rushing across the water sends tingles all over and it really must be experienced. Sailability is a volunteer-run charity that teaches and introduces people to sailing in a safe and fun way.

Sailability operates in many countries throughout the world, through activities at 350 local Sailability clubs. Sailability is a not-for-profit, volunteer-based organisation which, through the activity of sailing, enriches the lives of people with any type of disability, the elderly, the financially and socially disadvantaged.

Under various names, Sailability operates in France, Greece, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Timor Leste and the USA with new national Sailability organisations currently being established in all parts of the world. From its birth in the UK about 20 years ago and its arrival in Australia about 17 years ago, Sailability now has over 70 clubs in the country and, in New South Wales alone, there are 28 Sailability organisations.

Sailability is run for people not necessarily with a disability but people who would find it difficult or impossible to participate to a reasonable level in an ordinary sailing club.

Chris Cook has been running the northern rivers branch since it started 15 years ago. ‘We have specially designed sail boats that cannot sink or tip over due to their unique design,’ says Chris. ‘An experienced sailor goes out with each person until they are competent and confident to sail by themselves, or you can then take someone out yourself.’

Chris says the group have sailing and non-sailing volunteers and are always looking for more. ‘Most of our sailing volunteers have vast sailing experience, and others we have taught. Sailability Australia runs regional, state, national and world championship regularly and if the thought of competing appeals to you, then we can train you to whatever level or how far you’d like to go with our vast wealth of champion sailors.’

Sailability Northern Rivers uses the water on Lake Ainsworth in Lennox Head to express their passion and sailing days are usually on the second and fourth Sundays of the month between October and April. ‘It is quite a social affair,’ says Chris. ‘We have swimming and canoeing also available for volunteers and budding sailors. We can handle any disability and have a hoist and accessible toilets/showers so, if the idea appeals to you, come along and give it a try.’

Whether you’d like to learn to sail, be taken for a sail or become a volunteer on a casual or regular basis it’s great fun. Sailability is located at the Dept of Sport and Recreation at Lake Ainsworth. Sailability is $5 for a casual day’s sail and then if you like it you can join for only $25 per season. Friends, relatives and siblings of budding sailors and volunteers are also encouraged to come along. Go along and give it a go – you will never know how much fun it is until you try it.

Sailability will also take special groups during weekdays. Call Craig for more info on 6685 9086 or email [email protected].

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