Teaching Special Needs Kids to sail, its Brilliant !!

DOSC Sailability


Sailability is a worldwide, not-for profit, volunteer based movement that facilitates sailing for everyone regardless of ability or age. The worldwide program has activities that cover a broad spectrum – ranging from recreation, therapeutic and competitive activities – and from grass-root entry level right through to elite World Championships and Paralympics training.

DOSC Sailability

DOSC Sailability is committed to giving people with special needs the opportunity to learn to sail and offer a free structured sailing program to students from special needs schools and to individuals upon request. Sailability activities are designed to introduce and encourage people to participate in sailing activities in a safe and supportive environment, with bronze, silver and gold Certificates of Achievement to mark their progress.

The program is primarily supported by DOSC and is operated and managed entirely by volunteers. A core team has formed the Sailability Management Committee, with the current structure being formalised and arrangements are being made to for our first AGM.

Sponsors were sourced in 2009 & 2010 to cover the cost of purchasing specially adapted boats, called Access Dinghies. A separate sponsor was sourced to cover the cost of cool boxes for use on the safety boats, pontoon and at our onshore activity locations and a further sponsor has donated a range of buoyancy aids for the program.

Further funds are raised via raffles held at DOSC, garage sales and through private donations from club members, friends of Sailability members and schools that feel the program is of value to the community and certain levels of this covers operational costs. The program relies heavily on the generous support from DOSC, that provides water and refreshments for the volunteers and students at a reduced price to Sailability; stationery and session basics are covered by smaller donations; whilst most ‘behind the scenes’ work is done by the Management Committee at their own cost.

The DOSC Sailability Program

The DOSC Sailability program is a simple approach to sailing at a grass roots level and includes a rotation of activities, both land and water based, that covers sailing theory, wind awareness, knot tying, tacking skills, rowing and of course, learning how to sail!

On sailing days, at approximately 8.30am, volunteers and sailing instructors bring boats out in preparation for the day’s activities. Students arrive around 10.00am, where they register and change in preparation for sailing. Students are encouraged to assist in the rigging of a Laser Bahia and help the sailing instructors to launch them in the water. The RYA sailing instructors crew the rigged boats, then sail across to the beach in front of the Ten Tola area, where some activities take place.

The student groups are broken into teams – some sessions students will sail in Access Dinghies only, some in a Laser Bahia only but where time is available, we try to ensure that students get a rotation in both types of boats each session.

When the students’ time in the rotation is reached to sail an Access Dinghy, they are chaperoned to the pontoon to enjoy their session on the water. Once their session is concluded, the students are then chaperoned back into the land based rotation of activities.

Land based activities occur within the rotation and students cover knot tying, learning the parts of the boat, wind awareness, how to rig a sail and the basics of tacking. The aim of the day is to ensure that all students cover each area on land and get equal time sailing.

Sailing occurs during the cooler months of the year, which is generally October through to the following May and during the sailing season, with sailing every Wednesday morning between the hours of 10.00 am and 12.30pm – weather and school terms permitting.

Previously students learnt to sail on a variety of boats that included the Laser 2000, Laser Bahia, Topper and Optimist. A DOSC member donated and converted a Wind rider, which students love to sail and relax on, and students learn the basics of rowing in a Topper beachside.

Earlier this year, Sailability purchased its first 6 Access Dinghy’s (specially adapted boats that are non cap sizable). Students are learning to sail these simple design boats, with the ultimate aim to sail them independently. After a short 3 months, we have 2 students sailing independently and we are hoping they will move onto learning to sail Topper’s or Pico’s before the season ends.

Students progress through the RYA certificates by showing competency from a list of tasks, set out in various skill sets, which allow a variety of special needs students an opportunity for progression. Currently we have 2 gold certificate holders, 5 silver certificate holders, 6 bronze certificate holders and others with a certificate of attendance. By the end of the current season, we aim to have students progress to their next level, where we will hold ceremonies both at DOSC and at their relevant schools. We are very proud of all of our students!!

Sailability History

Sailability originated in Great Britain in the 1980’s with the aim to make sailing accessible to people with disabilities and began when the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) formed the Seamanship Foundation. In parallel, a number of individual groups that supported sailing for special needs formed, which became the basis of a national organisation for disabled sailors. As a result, these individual groups united and RYA Sailability was created.

Today the organisation is the leading national authority for disabled sailing in the UK with over 15,000 sailors benefiting from its activities. RYA Sailability is considered to be the most active sailing organisation for people with disabilities in the world, with over 200 clubs in the UK alone and Sailability volunteers are consistently expanding the Sailability program around the world.

Sailability operates under various names, with new national Sailability organisations being established on a regular basis, in which the Dubai group is included.

Sailability in Dubai, UAE

In 2005, the ‘All for Downs’ group began to arrange joyrides and sailing activities at the DOSC Sailing Club, for Down Syndrome children, with a handful of these parents being DOSC members. They still continue sailing on a regular basis at DOSC and we are currently integrating the group into being another section of the Sailability program, with sailing sessions in the afternoons.

Hearing of the possibility of special needs sailing in Dubai, volunteers from Special Needs Awareness Program (SNAP) and members of DOSC arranged for students from special needs schools to attend the club to and enable them to experience sailing, in 2008. For many, this would be their first time on the water and aboard a boat.

After the RYA program of sailing was decided upon, DOSC members offered their boats for activities and Dubai Centre For Special Needs and Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre began attending DOSC regularly, where they began to work towards their Certificates of Achievement.

In the spring of 2009, DOSC achieved RYA Sailability recognition, with DOSC Sailability being one of a few very select overseas centres to hold this status and to achieve affiliation.

Mid 2010, Sailability purchased its first 6 Access Dinghy’s (specially adapted boats that are non cap sizable). Students are learning to sail these simple design boats, with the ultimate aim to sail them independently. After a short 3 months, we saw 2 students sailing independently and we are hoping they will move onto learning to sail Topper’s or Pico’s before the season ends.

Dubai Offshore Sailing Club


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