With Regatta Day postponed due to wind, this sailing program took full advantage of Quidi Vidi Lake

·2 min read
Hayley Redmond is one of Able Sail NL's more experienced sailors. She says sailing provides freedom for people with disabilities.  (Josée Basque/CBC - image credit)
Hayley Redmond is one of Able Sail NL's more experienced sailors. She says sailing provides freedom for people with disabilities. (Josée Basque/CBC - image credit)
Josée Basque/CBC
Josée Basque/CBC

There were still boats on Quidi Vidi Lake on Wednesday even with the Regatta being pushed back a day because of strong winds.

Able Sail NL, a program created in 2018 with the idea of making sailing accessible to anyone with physical or mental disabilities, took advantage of the weather and set sail with the lake all to its own.

"Able Sail just gives freedom," said sailor Hayley Redmond who has been involved with the program for the last three years.

"Freedom, excitement, and enjoyment and independence, which is something that we all strive for."

Redmond, who is a wheelchair user, told CBC News she has been sailing competitively for five years, including trips to the Mobility Cup — a Canadian national championship in sailing for people with disabilities. She's hoping to get to the Canada Games in 2022.

The boats — the Martin 16 — are adapted with a heavy keel at the bottom, so that they cannot tip over, said Redmond.

"Which makes it safer for athletes to head out on the water and give it a try," she said.

They're also equipped with adjustable seats to allow for different postures, a steering system which uses pulleys so it's easier on the sailor, and a pulley system for the sails which takes less effort to pull sails in and out. The group is also working on a electronic system where each movement of the boat will be operated at the push of a button.

 Josée Basque/CBC
Josée Basque/CBC

Matt Debicki, president of Able Sail NL, told CBC News the plan was to have the program demonstrated during breaks between Regatta Races on Wednesday. But the delayed start to the annual races didn't stop them from hitting the water anyway.

"That's one of the things that we're building with the Regatta group. The Quidi Vidi Regatta group actually has got an MOU with us," Debicki said.

"They've opened up their clubhouse with welcomed arms for us to come and sail when they're not rowing. One of the things we're building on is we love sailing when it's windy, they don't like to row when it's windy. So it makes a really great partnership."

Debicki said Newfoundland and Labrador's aging infrastructure makes it difficult to provide accessible programming. He said sailing removes barriers for people with disabilities.

"All we have to do is get them on a boat and all of a sudden barriers disappear. They get to sail and have fun just like everyone else," he said.

"And for a little while, at least, mobility issues and stuff like that don't cause a problem."

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