Cowes Sailability Club members overcame their disabilities to complete a seventeen-hour circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight.

Four members of Cowes Sailability Club took part in the Round the Island Race 2019, taking seventeen hours to circumnavigate the Isle of Wight on board the Spirit of Scott Bader.  The voyage was a huge achievement for the crew members with disabilities, who remained cheerful and demonstrated exceptional resilience during the long day afloat. 

Cowes Sailability Club member Robin Whitehead says, “Having a disability or a serious long term medical condition means you have to be really determined to do even the simplest of things.  When other boats were turning on their engines and giving up on the race, everyone on the Spirit of Scott Bader was determined to finish, and finish by sail, no matter how long it took.” 

The crew included eight people with disabilities, of whom four have multiple sclerosis (MS), with varying symptoms, and two are wheelchair users.  “For me, it was a special opportunity to take part in an activity with people, like me, who are affected in different ways by MS,” Robin says.  “The event gave us a real sense of achievement and showed how it is possible to succeed against adversity, whether that is a disability or poor weather conditions for sailing.”

Low wind on the day of the race meant that the entire fleet of boats made slow progress around the south of the island.  Of the 1210 boats that started out, most withdrew during the race and only 283 completed the course within the allotted time.  The crew of the Spirit of Scott Bader remained positive and completed the race under sail, just failing to cross the finishing line before the deadline. 

Spirit of Scott Bader is a 35-foot wheelchair accessible catamaran owned by the Disabled Sailors’ Association.  The yacht was chartered for the race by the Gwennili Trust, an approved RYA Sailability foundation organisation that Cowes Sailability Club has collaborated with successfully over many years.  Professional yachtsman John Douglas skippered the yacht for the race, accompanied by a highly experienced ‘ship’s mate’.  They kept the team’s spirits high, with sea shanties and games of eye spy, and helped to ensure that everyone had a very rewarding day.  

More information about the Gwennili Trust is available here: www.gwennili.org.uk