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Keith Rollinson helps disabled sailors take to the water in Wales

by Hamish Stuart, RYA Wales 2 Feb 2012 20:02 GMT

Keith Rollinson has succeeded in increasing the amount of disabled sailors able to take to the water in North Wales, now his role has been expanded to include all of Wales.

Rollinson, aged 63, from Welshpool, started his campaign to increase the access to sailing when his wife was diagnosed with Multiple Schlerosis 12 years ago, but since then he has seen the Sailability scheme go from strength to strength.

Having spent the last three years helping clubs in North Wales become much more accessible through improving facilities and running coaching schemes, he has now been appointed as the Sailability co-ordinator for all of Wales for clubs to get advice on how to increase disabled sailing.

“What I do is really just to promote disabled sailing and helping clubs to set things up including where to look for funding to improve facilities,” explained Rollinson.

“It is about taking a lot of little steps, getting some people out on the water who would not be able to enjoy sailing if we did not put a few things in place. It is worth it just to see the joy on people's faces after they have been out on the water for 20 minutes.

“This can include people in a wheelchair, partially sighted, cerebral palsy, or arthritis can also be part of it, anything that means people are not as agile – it a question of putting the facilities and volunteers in place helping people to enjoy sailing.

“At my own club Clywedog, we have become a centre for disabled sailing after getting grants for a hoist and various other facilities.

“Clubs need disabled access, toilets, better signage for partially sighted, some simple things that club committees would not think of to make places more friendly for people with a disability.

For the Access dinghies you need just over 1mt of depth with good access from the waters edge for wheelchairs and you can go sailing. At Clywedog we have a landing craft and a landing island with a hoist ( purchased courtesy of a Disability sport grant and Local Authority funding , but there are also Trimarans which are controlled by the sailor from the centre seat which the sailor can transfer too on land and then be launched from a slipway.

“We have two schools for pupils with learning disabilities who use Clywedog. There is one autistic lad who is very bright, a good sailor, who has joined the club and is now sailing with our cadets. “Sailability is about making our clubs as inclusive as possible.”

While Rollinson is now the main contact in Wales, there is plenty of advice for interested clubs on the RYA website at www.rya.org.uk/sailability/ . Rollinson can be contacted either through Sailability, Welsh Sailing, the Clywedog club or Sport Powys.

He is a RYA senior instructor who runs the cadet club at Clywedog. His influence in getting schemes off the ground in North Wales is behind the decision to make him the main force for Sailablity throughout Wales.

“Sailability is a great scheme and we are lucky to have someone with the experience and knowledge of Keith to drive this forward in Wales,” said Welsh Sailing chief executive Steve Morgan.

“Clubs can get funds and grants, it is just a question of knowing what to ask for and where to look. Keith can help with that.

“Sailing is an excellent sport for all ages and abilities, with welcoming clubs throughout Wales that have a fantastic camaraderie for everyone to join in with. Keith can help expand those opportunities.”

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