We asked Kathy Saxton from Dubai to tell us about their sailing program in Hansa boats, and this is her story.
Sailability has been operating from the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club since 2009. Initially there were 5 volunteers and 11 students. In 2016 we have grown incredibly as a group and we now have 42 students across 3 different sessions every Wednesday. To accommodate the growth in student number we have needed to train more volunteers. At the present time we have a total of 93 volunteers on our books. On any given Wednesday we see between 48-55 volunteers to assist in running our sessions. To coordinate such a massive group is a challenge but at the end of the day smiles on the faces of the students is all we need.
Our students come from 15 different Nations and we have volunteers from 22 Nations so it is very cosmopolitan. We have a number of students who are hearing impaired and it has been inspirational to see them achieve independence in sailing.
All our students are under 25 years of age, the mean age is 16 years. They have various forms of disability. We have a group who are all Downs Syndrome, another with students who have varying degrees of Autism. A large number who have of varying degree of hearing impairment and some others who are physically challenged and who require wheelchair assistance and a hoist to be able to get them in an out of the boats.
We do run Regatta’s within the UAE but have not at this stage been able to send students to compete in any other regatta due to the fact that we are isolated and that there are so many cultural issues with regard to taking the students away for any length of time. We did, however last year take 3 of our long term students on the “trip of a lifetime” where we went to Halifax in Canada and sailed for 7 days on the Lord Nelson, a Jubilee Sailing Trust vessel. This was an amazing experience for all and one that we look forward to doing again.
We were very pleased to receive notification at the beginning of the last year that DOSC Sailability had received accreditation from RYA as a Centre of Excellence. This was the culmination of many years work by past and present Sailability volunteers and Committee and is testament to the value that RYA places on facilities outside of the UK. We are the first Centre outside of the UK to gain such accreditation so it is a great achievement by all.
Here in Dubai we do have some fairly dramatic weather to contend with. Our sailing season runs from September through early May. During this time we can still have temperatures up to 45-50 C so of course this does restrict what we can do. We always have a contingency as we are also prone to severe Shamal winds which leads to high seas, inconsistent temperatures and poor visibility. That is all part of the beauty of living in Dubai.
When we do sail we must have one of the best locations in the world. On one side as we exit the Marina we have the iconic Burj Al Arab (sail like hotel) and on the other side the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) if we head straight out from the marina for 1 mile we reach the world islands…we have often had a laugh when we decide to “sail around the world” in some of our sessions, much better than weaving in and out of buoys.
We are really pleased to be part of such a great experience for all.