Community sailing program shares thrill of the ocean

The ocean around Mandurah recently set the scene for a program bringing the fun and freedom of sailing to all.

Rotary Sail Into Life Peel is a learning experience that builds independence, initiative, teamwork skills and integrity in program participants.

The program was held at the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club (MOFSC) and centred around a flotilla of accessible sailing dinghies designed to offer people with disability the freedom and therapeutic benefits of sailing.

Sail into Life committee member, Beth Aitken, said participants’ ages ranged from 10 to more than 80 years. All were eager to join in, enjoyed sailing and appreciated the volunteers.

“For many of these people, young and older, this is an opportunity they may not have been previously able to access,” she said.

The program is a combined Rotary Club Project between the Rotary Club of Mandurah, the Mandurah Districts Rotary Club, the Pinjarra Rotary Club, and community volunteers with a range of operational and sailing skills.

Sail into Life was relaunched following two years of closure after a community member approached APM’s Community Capacity Building (CCB) team because there was urgent need to get the program running again.

The program ran between October and March giving aspiring sailors a chance to experience the activity.

“This program is really aimed at people that wouldn’t necessarily get an opportunity to experience a sailing opportunity,” said APM CCB Aaron Spice.

Aaron said the program was helped by local Navy Cadets and this had the added benefit of giving participants the opportunity to join that group in the future.

CCB assisted by establishing a separate Facebook page for the program and listed event dates. It created information leaflets which were distributed through community members and LACs, Aaron said.

The recent program had identified need for a part-time coordinator and the committee were looking into funding the role.

Beth said Sail into Life had received outstanding support from both Aaron, and APM, in order to get the program relaunched in time for the sailing season.

She praised Aaron’s various efforts which ranged from writing funding submissions and involvement in the committee to scouting people who could volunteer.

MOFSC was a key contributor to the success of the Sail into Life Program because the Board provided committee representation, a support boat, practical support on sail dates and housed the boats.

Beth said the newly formed management committee took a new approach to collaboration between clubs with the view to improving and growing involvement in the program.

“Our vision is that people who are disadvantaged or have a disability of any age have access to a very safe sailing experience, of proven value, to contribute to participants health and wellbeing. Some participants will be offered leadership opportunities within the program,” she said.

“At this time, we have about 20 participants in the program; many of them sail on each sailing date. As the season progressed this year, more people were keen to participate, and we believe that the next season will attract many more participants.”

The season had highlighted the benefits experienced by the various participants and how important the program was to them.

“The longer our volunteers are involved in Sail into Life, the clearer the benefits become to us,” she said.

“All are eager to participate, thoroughly enjoy sailing and appreciate the volunteers who are generally skippers for them," Beth said.

For more information follow Sail into Life Peel on Facebook or contact Beth on 0412 342 291.

As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.

For more information about accessing NDIS and other support for people with disability, contact APM Communities on 1800 276 522 or email lac@apm.net.au