Back to top anchor
Close main menu
Open main menu Close main menu
2 people parasailing in sea

Inclusive sailing

Sailing is a sport that allows everybody, regardless of ability or disability, to take part on a level playing field. There are many opportunities to get on the water for recreation or competition in boats that can be adapted to suit anybody.

Inclusive Clubs

Yachting has developed a toolkit for clubs in providing inclusive programmes and delivering sailing for people with a disability. There is a wealth of resources on inclusive sailing, from how to set up a programme, how to make your club more accessible, to information on the types of boats that suit people with an impairment. All this information can be found in the Club Manual

Para Sailing

Sailing offers people with a disability the chance to compete on the world stage.

Find out more about high performance opportunities in Para Sailing 

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a disability - How can I go sailing?
Sailing is a sport that can be made possible for anybody. For people with a physical disability, boats can be modified to meet the individual needs of the sailor, whether that be with an electronic servo system (similar to using a power wheelchair) or just the standard accessible dinghies with centreline seats and joystick steering. If you can’t get yourself into the boat, there are lifting systems that can help you in and out. Visually impaired and blind sailors can use buoys with sound signals to let sailors know their location on the water.

Are there opportunities to race and participate in regattas?
Yes. Once you have completed learn to sail and have the basic skills of steering and controlling the sails, you can start to enter regattas. There are a handful of events in New Zealand each year, and many more opportunities overseas as you progress.

Can the boats flip?
The Hansa dinghies used in most New Zealand Sailability learn to sail courses are designed so that they cannot flip. This is done by placing lead in the centreboard or keel, so that no matter how hard the wind blows, the boat can’t tip over.  

What other safety measures are in place?
When sailing, participants must wear a suitable lifejacket/personal flotation device (PFD) and should be supervised by a safety power boat on the water, too. While the choice of what style lifejacket/PFD is often dependent on the type of sailing and an individual’s preference, more care must be taken with the choice for people with a disability. The attached RYA article highlights some important considerations. It is strongly recommended that individuals test their own lifejackets to check their suitability and that manufacturer's recommendations are followed, particularly in regard to servicing inflatable lifejackets. Weather conditions are always closely observed - if it is too windy sailing will be cancelled.

How can I get involved?
Contact one of the programmes listed above if you would like to start sailing, volunteer or support accessible sailing in your community. Otherwise, contact the Yachting New Zealand regional support officer for your area. 

Yachting New Zealand Committee for Sailors with a Disability

Yachting New Zealand has a committee for sailors with a disability that is responsible for ensuring New Zealanders in this community have the chance to participate at all levels from grassroots up to international competition. Blind sailing and sailability organisations maintain their independence in this committee and share their expert knowledge to be spread nationally.

Yachting New Zealand subscribes to Sport New Zealand's No Exceptions philosophy to guide our sport in becoming inclusive to people of all abilities.

This philosophy is based on four principles:

  • An enabling attitude
  • An enabling environment where barriers are removed
  • Access that is real and equitable
  • All people participating

Upcoming inclusive events

Event date Event Course Club Region
Thu 1 Oct - Sun 4 Oct 2020 Mount Gay Rum Hartley 16 Nationals Manukau Yacht and Motor Boat Club Auckland
Tue 26 Jan - Fri 29 Jan Bay of Islands Sailing Week 2021 Northland

Useful Contacts

The YNZ Regional Support Officers (RSOs). Contact details can be found here.

National Contacts


Contact Information

YNZ Committee for Sailors with a Disability

Dave Allerton

Email Dave

Blind Sailing NZ

Dick Lancaster

Email Dick

NZ 2.4mR

Paul Francis

Email  Paul

New Zealand Hansa Class Association Tim Dempsey Email Tim

Accessible Sailing Locations

Contact Person

Contact Information

Sailability Northland (Whangarei and Bay of Islands)

Chris Sharp

email Chris

Sailability Auckland (Westhaven and Royal Akarana Yacht Club)

Brendan Tourelle

Email Brendan

Auckland Blind Sailing

Carl Shardlow

Email Carl

Sailability Waikato - Ngaroto Sailing   Email Sailability Waikato

Bay of Plenty Disabled Sailing Club- Rotorua Yacht Club

Don McGowan

Email Don

Sailability Hawkes Bay- Napier Sailing Club

Katy Kenah

Email Katy

Sailability Taranaki-  Waitara Boating Club

Dave Allerton

Email Dave

Sailability Wellington - Evans Bay Yacht and Motorboat Club / Lowry Bay Yacht Club/Titahi Bay Yacht Club

Don Manning

Email Sailability Wellington

Otago Yacht Club (Dunedin)

Bridget Meyer

Email Bridget

Nelson Yacht Club

John McDuff

Email John

Wanganui Sailing Club

Bob Davies

Email Bob