RYA Logo RTC Logo


RTE Flag
Unique Award

Northampton Sailability applied to become an RYA Recognised Teaching Establishment and, following an assessment in September 2000, was successful in becoming one of the first UK Sailability groups to be so recognised. This honour was achieved through much hard work from Eddie, Mary, Jenny, Grant and others and will greatly benefit the progress of the group and its members wishing to pursue their sailing by means of formal teaching.

This means that we can now teach sailing skills to the RYA levels and award certificates in the name of Northampton Sailability.

In 2003 Recognised Teaching Establishments became known as Recognised Training Centres.

See the RYA website for more information:

Our qualified instructors at present are:

Longboat Instruction

Land drill

The teaching offered is mainly RYA Dinghy Sailing, Levels 1 & 2, Day Sailing, Seamanship Skills and Sailing with Spinnakers. Keelboat endorsements are offerred as appropriate.

Disabled sailors are encouraged to complete the syllabus for each of these levels to the best of their ability. However certificates may be awarded with endorsements where a pupil's particular disability prevents completion of some items.

Other teaching can be arranged if required, eg Powerboat and Safety Boat skills.

Teaching is limited to members only. Sorry, but you'll have to join (ie pay your subscription!) if you want us to teach you how to sail.

Some Members' Experiences

The following article was written for the RYA Wavelength Newsletter.

Northampton Sailability has been running as an RYA Training Centre for many years and has a strong pool of Instructors including some Assistant Instructors and Powerboat Drivers who are disabled. Here are some stories on how they came to be sailing and instructing.

Roy recalls "After being made disabled by arthritis back in 1993 I was doing the usual scratching about with nothing to do. A friend encouraged me to take up sailing and I joined Northampton Sailability. All the usual doubts rattled round my brain. Can I really do it? Isn’t it dangerous? What if I fall in?

My first experience was in a Sunbird (the old single seater keelboat). In 2004 I was given the dubious honour of being an Assistant Instructor in our RTC. Could I really sail THAT well? I soon found it’s a totally different kettle of fish from sailing on your own, getting away with all those mistakes! After one full season providing instruction, apart from having to brush up my own sailing and theory, I really enjoy it. There is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment in seeing someone go from being a highly nervous beginner with all the doubts and questions that I had, to being a reasonably confident sailor enjoying themself in spite of disabilities.

I enjoy helping them find ways around their problems; a lot of trial and error involved and a whole load of laughs too. I have found instructing challenging and people ask questions like why do you do it? All I can say is, if you get as much fun and achievement out of it as I do, you’ll know!"

Allan, a Senior Instructor at the Centre, also welcomes Roy’s important role in helping race coaching on our regular Friday racing sessions.


Barbara teaching in an Access 303

Barbara, who has rheumatoid arthritis, was persuaded by a friend to go along to Pitsford Water. Barbara says "Learning to sail an Access Dinghy opened my eyes to a whole new world where I could enjoy the freedom of being on the water. It gave a boost to my self esteem and I gained a wonderful new group of friends.

I gained my Levels 1 and 2 certificates and my confidence grew. I was encouraged to do the Powerboat Course which I found an exhilarating experience.

Learning to race was the next challenge and after being guided through the skills and tactics of racing I found a competitive streak I didn’t know existed. I emerged with my Start Racing certificate and also completed an Assistant Race Officer course which helped my understanding of the complexities of racing rules.

When it was suggested that I became an Assistant Instructor, my first reaction was "who me?" As I sat down and looked at all the skills I had gained over several seasons I realised that perhaps I could take on the role. We had many new members coming along with the same apprehensions that I had felt on my first visit. As a person with a disability, I was in a good position to give them an insight into what they could achieve. I started taking people out in an Access Dinghy and found real pleasure in showing them what fun sailing is and teaching them the first steps. It was a learning curve for me as every individual brings a new challenge. I have taught members with hearing and visual impairments as well as physical disabilities. For every one the satisfaction is showing them the possibilities despite their problems.

Gene came to Northampton Sailability for help in learning to sail after losing a hand. He is now a regular helper as Assistant Dinghy Instructor, Keelboat Skipper and Powerboat Instructor with the Centre as well as belonging to another sailing club, where he is, in fact, this year’s Commodore.

Gene says "I have adapted as best I can to rig and sail any of the boats we operate as well as to launch and recover them. I take all sorts of people out and utilise their strengths to make up for my shortcomings. I take groups out in the Drascombe Longboat and individuals in the Access or Challenger Trimaran. I will act as helm in the Martin 16 and enjoy having a crew to fly the spinnaker. Power boating has few challenges for me and provided the crew is relatively mobile there are no drawbacks. I do safety cover and some coaching to our youngsters at my local club. Because I use a conventional dinghy myself, most people are unaware of my problem as my prosthesis is very lifelike. I get no concessions and that’s the way I like it!"

Jenny, Senior Instructor, says, "Gene simply doesn’t think of himself as disabled. He just gets on with the job. He adapted his individual sailing technique to cope with his Phantom Dinghy but we had to think and plan how to teach tacking and gybing the RYA way to make best use of his good hand."

At 32, Andy was a healthy man who enjoyed an active sporty lifestyle. Things changed dramatically when a skiing accident left him paralysed from the chest down. Andy says "I was keen to continue active pursuits and a search on the web and a phone call led me to Sailability at Northampton. My first lesson was in a specially designed dinghy, an Access, which my instructor said was impossible to capsize or sink. I have sailed many hours in all sorts of wind and I agree! From this I progressed to higher performance boats that I could sail on my own and conventional dinghies where I need an active helper to run around and balance things. A natural step from here was an Assistant Instructors’ course and helping with new sailors learning. This is good fun and puts a bit back into the club. I have been taking new members, visitors and new volunteer helpers for their first sail. With a specially designed dinghy or small keelboat, me not being able to move about is not a problem. I think this safe and stable environment is a good way to teach all sorts of people to sail. Because no one ends up in a load of cold water, things are more relaxed and you can afford to let people have a go. I have found sailing a good fun social experience and instructing has definitely enhanced this. The look on people’s faces when they realize they are in control of a boat often keeps you smiling all day".

John, one of the Senior Instructors has worked with Andy in dinghies, and powerboats. He comments "Compared with other able bodied drivers, Andy was no different. His performance in driving and handling a RIB at speed was amazing. Andy has also sailed with me on yachts. I still don’t believe society and the world of political correctness have got things right. Disabled sailors have nothing to prove. I find the majority of them committed, focussed and possessed of the most incredible determination".

From the Instructor Team at Northampton Sailability