Inclusion Sailing: A New Pillar at the VSaW

The topic of inclusive sailing for people with disabilities has received ever-increasing attention from the sailing community. In Germany, yacht clubs like Verein Seglerhaus am Wannsee in Berlin and Norddeutscher Regatta Verein in Hamburg are actively supporting this cause, which involves investing in suitable boats and implementing structural changes to the clubs’ property, including easy access and special lifting devices.

These efforts, combined, are meant to welcome disabled sailors into the clubs and into the regatta scene.

Introducing an Inclusion Working Group

At the Verein Seglerhaus am Wannsee (VSaW), an Inclusion Working Group was formed in November 2020 and charged with making the VSaW more handicapped-friendly. Their primary goal is to make inclusion sailing a pillar of the club and to enable able-bodied and handicapped sailors to sail together in one regatta or in one boat.

Simultaneously, the Club is helping organize the National Games 2022 and the Special Olympics 2023 in Berlin, both of which will have inclusive sailing aspects.

Here is what this group has already achieved, and what is on the horizon.

Obtaining Accessible Boats

The Club’s Board of Directors approved the purchase of four suitable boats: two 2.4mR boats and two Laser Bahia boats. The boats were largely financed by Dr. Helmut Elsner, the WANNSEEATEN Foundation Berlin and other sponsors.

You can read about these boats, below.


Since the Laser Bahia is also well-suited for the basic sail-training, they are available to the membership at large. The 2.4mRs are specially adapted to the needs of disabled sailors and will not be available to the general membership.

Trainers and Training Boats

We are currently advertising for a trainer, with appropriate qualifications for working with disabled people. This trainer will develop a concept on how to promote sailors with disabilities and how to introduce disabled non-sailors to the sport. Special focus will be placed on seeking and fostering skills development for young people with disabilities. Contacts have already been established with some schools and institutions.

To fund this, we have received a noteworthy donation through Aktion Mensch, with which a qualified trainer and a trainer boat can be financed over the next five years.

Updates to Club Grounds and Facilities

A major hurdle so far has been barrier-free access to the boats. We are optimistic that we will be able to have the planned floating jetty installed on Jetty 4 for the new construction of Jetty 1 in November 2021. Part of the jetty construction project contributes to the development of inclusion sailing in the VSaW, because the new head of Jetty 4 is designed as a floating jetty so that sailors can easily get into their boats and leave them again.

There have already been extensive discussions with the Monument Office about the possibilities of providing handicapped-accessible access to the restaurant and terrace and barrier-free sanitary areas for the Seglerhaus itself. A solution is emerging.

The conversion of a storage room (diagonally opposite the fitness room) is currently being planned, in which a disabled toilet with shower will be installed. There are also concepts in place for access to the restaurant and terrace.

As you can see, there will be a lot to do at VSaW in the near future. A big task is waiting for us—and we are tackling it NOW.

About the 2.4mR: Based on the 12mR class of the 1980 America’s Cup, this miniature version is designed as a singlehanded boat for disabled sailors, 4.18 meters long and 81cm wide. The interior differs significantly from the larger models. All controls for sails, trim and steering are below deck and only the sailor’s head pops out. Controls can be adapted to pure leg, pure manual or mixed, depending on the sailor’s ability.

Due to the low center of gravity, the 2.4mR is safe from capsizing and, thanks to several pumps, unsinkable, which makes it a perfect inclusion boat.

Already, the 2.4mR is an international boat class, with over 100 active sailors in Germany alone. In 2020, the 2.4mR received Paralympic status and World Sailing is committed to the resumption of Paralympic sailing post-pandemic. It therefore makes sense to select these flexible and established boats for the inclusion project in the VSaW.

We got a first impression of the class in 2020 when we organized the German Open for the 2.4mR. We’ll do that again this year. In that event, we got an idea of what inclusion can mean in VSaW, namely equal sailing of disabled and non-disabled people with and against each other.

About the Laser Bahia: The Laser Bahia was designed by Jo Richards in 2007 and has already been used in the Special Olympics Sailing. 4.60 meters in length, the Laser Bahia is a stable dinghy for two to four people; it can also be sailed singlehanded.

The Bahia’s roll-up jib and reefable main make it possible to quickly adapt the sail area to the weather conditions. Thanks to a capsize line and handles in the fuselage, it can be easily righted if you capsize. The sturdy material of the hull can withstand a not-so-successful maneuver — all of which makes the Bahia an ideal school and beginner boat.

When designing and positioning the fittings, care was taken to ensure that people with physical or mental disabilities can easily find their way around without barriers. For example, the classic tree vang has been replaced by a tree pusher like a 49er to reduce the risk of injury. With the tall boom, sailors with physical limitations also have a lot of freedom of movement during maneuvers.

The Laser Bahia is easy and quick to set up and can be sailed comfortably with the mainsail and jib (a total of 14 square meters of sail area), but just as sporty with a gennaker (making a total of almost 25 square meters of sail area) and trapeze. Another important aspect for club boats is the question of maintenance. Here the Bahia scores with low-maintenance, durable material and self-explanatory structure at a fair price-performance ratio.

This makes the Bahia a boat that the VSaW can use not only for adaptive sailing and inclusion, but also for the basic training of young people and adults. The Bahia starts when there is little wind, and when it gets a little more, you can reef. With the trapeze on this good-natured boat everyone can try “flying over the water”.