Sailors with a disability

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. 

Follow these links for more information on...

Learn to Sail disability suppliment- how the YNZ LTS dinghy syllabus can be changed to accomodate sailors with a physical disability.

Paralympic sailing - including information on Classification and the YNZ Development Programme and class progression guide

Inclusion Resources- a toolkit for clubs in providing inclusive programming and delivering sailing for people with a disability

Yachting New Zealand has formed a Committee for Sailors with a Disability that is responsible for ensuring that New Zealanders in this community have the chance to participate at all levels from grass roots up to  international competition.  Blind Sailing and Sailability organizations maintain their independence in this committee and share their expert knowledge to be spread nationally. For more information contact your Yachting New Zealand Regional Support Officer listed below.

Where to get started:

YNZ Regional Support Officers    
Northern Region (Northen) Kim Admore email Kim
Northern Region (South) Raynor Haagh email Raynor
Central Region Wayne Holdt email Wayne
Southland/Otago Ian Gardiner email Ian

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


Useful Resource:

You can find more useful resouces on YNZ's Inclusion Resources page and Dinghy Learn To Sail page.

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 NZ each year, and many more opportunities overseas as you progress.

Can the boats flip?

The ‘Hansa’ dinghies used in most NZ 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 life jacket/PFD and should be supervised by a safety power boat on the water too. While the choice of what style life jacket/PFD is often dependant on the type of sailing and an individual’s preference, more care must be taken with the choice for persons with a disability. The attached RYA article highlights some important considerations. It is strongly recommended that individuals test their own life jackets to check their suitability, and that manufacturer's recommendations are followed, particularly in regard to servicing inflatable life jackets. Read more about inflatable life jacket servicing.  Each accessible sailing programme will organize to have a Yachting New Zealand qualified instructor or coach, and a first aid officer on site. 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 YNZ Regional Support Officer for your area. They are also listed above.