Visually Impaired Sailing Week 2022 welcome dinner at Royal Lymington Yacht Club (source RLymYC
On July 2-9, 2022, the Royal Lymington Yacht Club (RLymYC) hosted a special week of sailing that offered 40 people with visual impairments the opportunity to discover the joy of the sport. The Club hosted seventeen yachts, each skippered by their volunteer owner, two sighted mates, and two crew members with visual impairments who got a taste of the freedom of the sea and the skills required to capture the wind.
Visually Impaired Sailing Week (or Blind Sailing Week, as it is fondly known by many who take part) was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. Therefore, this week was particularly important as it helped participants emerge from the lockdowns and overcome health anxieties that have made the past two years particularly challenging.
Living aboard their yachts, the crews visited ports from Chichester in the east to Poole in the west. They returned to RLymYC for an end-of-event dinner sprinkled with salty stories and sea shanties!
On the helm at Visually Impaired Sailing Week (source Sailing Vision Trust)
Londoner, sailing newcomer, and person with visual impairments, Jean quickly learnt safety drills, winching and tying knots by touch, but when first invited to try tacking the boat he said “Skipper, we’ll tack tomorrow!”
RLymYC members volunteered for shore-based duties, including distributing sailing gear and meeting visually impaired participants at the station. Club members and local businesses were generous in their support for the event and victualling the yachts. One of the volunteers during the week expressed how important the week had been for them, too: “l have learnt so much this week, a truly humbling experience and such a pleasure to meet inspiring people.”
On the water, the Club’s motorboat section gave visually impaired participants a safe yet thrilling experience of RIB and motor cruiser driving. Having taken the wheel in the open sea, one participant declared “I’ve never driven a motorbike or a car…how amazing to be at the wheel of a 100hp powerboat!”
Participants under sail (source Sailing Vision Trust)
One participant said “This trip has made my year! I never thought I would do this!” Another stated “I feel empowered and inspired to go forward now.”
Vice Commodore of RLymYC, Stephen Crates, said “Visually Impaired Sailing Week is a highly worthwhile and memorable event for all participants. As a Club we were able to facilitate arrival and departure arrangements for those involved, provide a central venue, and host the welcome and departure dinners. It was a privilege to meet with many of the attendees at the end of their time on the Solent and to see the smiles on participants’ faces and hear everyone’s seafaring stories at the end of the week. We very much look forward to being involved in the event in future years.”
Visually Impaired Sailing Week is an annual event, organised through the Sailing Vision Trust. Dr Will Bridge, Chairman of Sailing Vision Trust, said “Royal Lymington Yacht Club hosted and supported Visually Impaired Sailors’ Week marvelously, with the enthusiastic support of members. The crews of 17 yachts including 40 visually impaired people were able to experience the freedom, empowerment and camaraderie of sailing.”
Learning the ropes at VI Sailing Week 2022 (source Sailing Vision Trust)