Almost any boat can be sailed by people with disabilities, although some boats are more suitable than others. However, any boat can be adapted or modified to enable a disabled person to more easily sail.
For many able-bodied and disabled sailors, a standard ex-factory boat is perfectly adequate. But sooner or later, almost everyone chooses to personalise a boat in some way. However, few boat owners are enthusiastic about making unnecessary modifications, so if you are new to sailing or still experimenting to find the best solutions, make only temporary adaptations.
In the interests of sharing information and experience gained, the IFDS has been collating information and visual illustrations of adaptations being developed around the world.
Whilst the visual illustrations of the boat adaptations all depict Sonars, they can be modified for use on almost any boat. At present, among boats widely used around the world are the Sonar (Paralympic three-person keelboat), 2.4mR (Paralympic single-person keelboat),Martin 16, Ideal 18, Access Dinghy, Rhodes 19, Hobie Trapseat and the Freedom. Many of these boats are sailed by able-bodied sailors as well, and almost any boat can be used with some modification.
Adaptations included are seats, transfer benches and hiking and steering assists. Not shown online, but used on some boats such as the Martin 16 is joystick steering and electronics for sip and puff. Seats allow the sailors to position themselves so they can control the tiller and sheet without fear of falling. These can be as simple as a lawn chair modified to fit a cockpit or as complex as a translating seat, which allows a sailor to switch sides. Seats include the lawn chair, wheelchair bases, golf cart seats and other easily adapted seats. The transfer bench allows sailors to switch sides when tacking or jibing and can be anything from a sturdy cooler in the middle of the cockpit, a custom cockpit filler, to platforms that fill in the cockpit area.
Andy Cassell (GBR) - Transfer seat forward, deck pads, helmsman loop
Steering devices take many forms, including a collapsing metal tiller, which allows free movement from one side of the boat to another, or wheel steering. One steering system uses levers on both sides of the boat. Handholds and bars provide stability for the sailor in the sailing position or in a move from one side to the other. Sheet fine tune and other systems provide assistance to sailors with weakness or poor muscle function; these comply with relevant class and IFDS rules.
The adaptations detailed have been approved by the Technical and Medical Committees. It should be noted that Part 1, section (d) of the IFDS Race Management Manual details the rules effecting boat adaptations. It should also be noted that for Regional, World and Paralympic events an Adaptations Committee will rule on adaptations.
For anyone considering boat adaptations, a basic "starter kit" for any boat could include a camping mat, a plank of wood, some short lengths of rope and a roll of duct tape. With these items, it is possible to provide:
· A padded, non-slip seat
· Padding around sharp objects in the cockpit
· An additional thwart to assist transfer from side to side during manoeuvres
· Extra loops of rope to grip and maintain stability in the boat
· Extensions to sheets.
Only when confident of the value of a solution should you make permanent adaptations.