Sea History 168 - Autumn 2019

Page 48


by Peter McCracken

Online Resources for Adaptive Sailing


n 1992 on a trip to Thailand, I learned that author and sailor Tristan Jones (1929–1995) lived not far from where I was traveling, and, even better, that he was open to receiving visitors. My traveling partner and I went to meet him. By this point in his life, Jones had lost both of his legs to accidents and disease, but he was still sailing, now in a modified vessel called Little Legend, sometimes with and sometimes without an intentional extra space in the name, to become Little Leg End. Through this experience, Jones ended up making sailing accessible to many disabled youth and adults in Thailand. As Jones expected, sailing certainly presents additional challenges for people with disabilities, but “adaptive sailing,” as it is often called, offers people more and more ways of getting past those challenges every day. Just recently I saw a question raised on a local human services discussion list, asking if anyone knew of a nearby dock or marina with a wheelchair lift so someone local could get a friend in a wheelchair onto the person’s boat. Many groups focus on creating effective solutions for getting people sailing, regardless of ability. Challenged Sailors San Diego, at, manages a fleet of Martin 16s that have been designed for adaptive sailing. A bit north, the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors ( manages a fleet of specially rigged sailboats in the San Francisco Bay area. In the Great Lakes, the Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan ( offers adaptive boating on Lake Michigan, while the Erie Adaptive Sailing Experience ( has been operating from the Bayfront Maritime Center in Erie, Pennsylvania, for nearly two decades. In Australia, Sailors with disABILITIES ( manages larger yachts that have been customized for those with specific needs, and has been racing in the Sydney-to-Hobart race most years since 1995 with a crew made up primarily or completely of disabled sailors. In the UK and Europe, the Disabled Sailors Association ( offers links to various charter boats that can be managed by those with a range of abilities, and includes a broad collection of content about sailing with disabilities and tools that one can use to make it possible. The Jubilee Sailing Trust (, a UK-based organization, operates two tall ships, Lord Nelson and Tenacious, both of which are designed to carry people with a wide range of abilities; these vessels also allow as many as possible to participate as members of the sailing crew and help maintain the ships, despite physical limitations. Also in the UK, the Miss Isle School of Sip & Puff Sailing ( uses an Artemis 20, a racing boat designed specifically for both able and disabled sailors. For Miss Isle, the keelboat is outfitted with a special gimbaled seat, which provides a platform from which those who cannot use their hands or legs can still control the yacht. Sailing was a Paralympic sport in the 1996 through 2016 Paralympic Games, but in 2015 it was dropped from plans for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. While sailing will not be part of the next Paralympics, adaptive sailing continues in other forms. The 2019 Para World Sailing Championships took place in Spain in July, and international competitions continue throughout the year. In Canada, the AbleSail Network (www. runs the Mobility Cup (, Canada’s 25-year-old annual regatta for sailors with disabilities. US Sailing manages a similar program for adaptive sailing across the country, at adaptive-sailing/. The international supports a central site for Para World Sailing at At the end of World War I, the US military began a program to assist disabled sailors and soldiers. The Disability History Museum ( has images of the covers of Carry On, a magazine that focused on this work (www., along with a few other maritime-related resources. The full run of Carry On is available through, at Suggestions for other sites worth mentioning are welcome at See for a free compilation of over 150,000 ship names from indexes to dozens of books and journals. 46


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