ISA Regional Development Officer, Ciarán Murphy, has been working tirelessly with Ireland’s Local Sports Partnerships to secure funding for suitable ISA Club initiatives, events and training. Last Saturday the 13th of August, Ciarán was in Bellacragher Boat Club in Mayo to deliver a training session on ‘sailing for people with special needs’ having successfully secured funding for the session from the Mayo Sports Partnership.

Bellacragher Boat Club were delighted with the work Ciarán had done for them in securing the funding and in delivering what was an insightful training session. Read the report below on the training session as written by Bellacragher Boat Club.

If you would like assistance in your ISA Club from our Regional Development Officers please contact Pamela Smithwick at

Report from Bellacragher Boat Club

With training provided by the Irish Sailing Association and Funding by the Mayo Sports Partnership, we were able to hold a training session to help members understand the common problems faced by people with special needs. 
It is our aim to get people with special needs on the water, Ciaran Murphy, Development officer with the ISA explained the many obstacles’ that we will encounter and how to overcome them, step by step. 

A simple task like getting into a boat becomes a much more involved operation when someone has a serious physical disability, how do you describe the landscape and the sea passage to a helmsperson that is blind! 

The training consisted of two parts, theory and practical. The theory dealt with the various agencies that helped the ISA prepare a programme, the common misconceptions people have about special needs and the importance of being able to assess a person’s ability, speaking directly to them. 

On the practical side, The ISA provided an "Access Sailing boat" to give us an opportunity to experience sailing a joystick controlled boat. Push the stick to the left, boat goes to the left, push to the right and guesses what? the boat goes to the right, a strange sensation for a sailor! 

The mainsheet and jib sheet are very easy to control and the very deep weighted keel and deep rudder make the boat almost impossible to capsize. We tested Ciaran's claim! 

Ciaran also advised on embarkation/disembarkation techniques and access points. 

We have had considerable success in the past where we have introduced people with behavioural problems to the water and taken them for trips. Our goal now is to allow them gain independence on the water and take control of their own vessel, this training will help us understand how to achieve that goal. 

To give the participants an idea of what people with special needs get out of sailing, they took turns helming our own boats either blindfolded or wearing earmuffs. It showed everyone that when one sense is taken from us, the others immediately compensate for it. 

If any of you know someone with some disability, please encourage them to come for a sail, we will assure them that we only look at the ability, not the disability. In time, and depending on the interest, we may seek funding for an “Access boat".
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