Andy Barton during powerboat training in 2015.
Andy Barton says:
Sailing around the Isle of Wight with Cowes Sailability Club is better than any drug therapy I have had in the ten years since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It has given me belief in myself and I feel like I can do anything now.
A neighbour introduced me to Cowes Sailability Club in 2014, shortly after I moved to the Isle of Wight and, to this day, I can remember just what it felt like to be out on the sea, in a wheelchair, for the first time. It felt like freedom.
Before being diagnosed with MS, I used to love sports and played tennis, rugby and football regularly. I also skied from the age of four. When I lost my mobility, I felt really cut off from sports as a whole and missed the sense of being in a team. Cowes Sailability Club has made the sport of sailing accessible to me, given me the opportunity to meet lots of people and enabled me to feel part of a team again.
In 2016, I had the opportunity to participate in the Round the Island Race on a yacht specially adapted for wheelchair users. I remember vividly sailing around the Needles and looking back to see thousands of coloured spinnakers against the sky behind me. I feel privileged to have had the chance to experience this incredible sporting event, and it was a day that I will never forget. There are no medicines can that make me feel as good as I feel when I am boating and sailing.
Cowes Sailability Club has also given me the opportunity to gain the RYA powerboat level II qualification. I could never have envisaged that it would be possible to accomplish something like this in a wheelchair. Yet, working towards and achieving this qualification gave me a real sense of pride. I can honestly say that being part of Cowes Sailability Club has improved my life.