A bunch of hardy teenagers, members of the Galway Speeders, a sports club for young people with physical disability, have been taking to the water in the first ever series of races for accessible sailors using the Hansa 303 dinghies. The fleet of youth sailors already had a busy summer of racing including participation in the national Hansa event in Dun Laoghaire. The growing enthusiasm has spurred the group to continue into the winter months.
This increased activity is facilitated by a group of volunteers from Galway Bay Sailing Club many of whom are still in school and college. The club also provides rescue craft and storage of the fleet of Hansa dingies. The Irish Sailing Association has provided some the Hansa boats as have Tralee Sailing Club.
The renovation by Galway County Council of the Renville Pier and the addition of a new large slipway some years back has had a significant impact on the ability of this group to access the bay. The marine engineering group of the Galway County Council placed the slipway in deeper water than the old slip and its location and raised breakwater has eliminated the silting of the area that caused problems in the past.
The enhanced slip has been very busy in recent weekends with the accessible group joined by younger sailors in Optimist dingies and the teenage Feva racers. Adult catamaran sailors find space later in day.
The success of the Access sailing program has resulted in Galway being awarded the 2014 National Championship for the Hansa fleet. Unfortunately the group is presently constrained by the lack of a personnel hoist used to transfer the sailors in and out of the boats and will be essential for the national regatta. The addition of a hoist would also open the facilities to Adult sailors. The Galway Speeders are beginning a fund raising campaign to provide a hoist that can be used at Renville Slip and other sailing venues in Galway.
John Twomey, 10th time Paralympian, will arrive at Galway Bay Sailing Club on Sunday the 20th of November to watch the six Access sailors and will give them some tips afterwards before presenting prizes to the winners of the GBSC Access Autumn Series 2013.