Smiles all round for many on the water as they enjoyed the end of season regatta.
Smiles all round for many on the water as they enjoyed the end of season regatta. Caitlin Zerafa

All on the water for regatta

THE sun was shining and conditions light and breezy last Thursday as Sailability held its annual regatta for the disabled.

Once a week since April, local disability groups have headed to Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club to enjoy the great outdoors.

The regatta marked the end of the season with the champions crowned with Olympic-style medals.

LET'S GO: Sailability Regatta for the disabled was held on Noosa River.
LET'S GO: Sailability Regatta for the disabled was held on Noosa River. Caitlin Zerafa

Sailability co-ordinator Ken Plunkett said during the season they had a broad range of adults with disabilities, mostly intellectual, come to enjoy the sport.

"It gets people out of their home environment or caring environment or wheelchairs,” Mr Plunkett said.

"Just the act of getting them on the water and being able to experience the sun and the salt and the wind; it's just beautiful.

"It's a sensory experience to start with and it's just very relaxing for them.”

Sunshine, salt water and a light spring breeze made for a great day out at Sailability's annual Regatta for the disabled.
Sunshine, salt water and a light spring breeze made for a great day out at Sailability's annual Regatta for the disabled. Caitlin Zerafa

Run by volunteers and trained instructors, the program sees the participants sit in the boats as they are navigated through a triangular course.

"Each boat is skippered by a trained skipper... each one of them is a qualified sailing instructor so they are in safe hands,” Mr Plunkett said.

"The boats themselves, the design is a Vagabond dinghy and they are designed for training people to learn how to sail so they are very safe.”

The return to shore from the winning boat in one of the day's heats.
The return to shore from the winning boat in one of the day's heats. Caitlin Zerafa

Sunshine Butterflies support worker Bec Johnson said the regatta brings the whole program together and they are grateful for the Sailabilty workers who put in so much effort.

"We've been coming for the whole term and it's something they really look forward to and it's a great opportunity to be able to do this for them,” she said.

"It's a great part of the program and we are so lucky they offer it here in Noosa.”

A keen photographer and artist, 18-year-old James Norquay loves the feeling of being out on the boats and said he feels as if he is being carried along the water.

"I love the sailing because of the fact that I get to come out and do this and be on the water, it's such a peaceful place,” James said.

"I go through quite a bit of stress in my life and I have a few issues with my sight and I get a bit overwhelmed every now and again so when I'm on the water I'm really relaxed.”

James lost his sight in 2011 from brain cancer and said since then he has developed new skills and has a real passion for painting.

"Even when you do have a disability you have to keep going and not let anything stop you.”

On the day, about 24 competitors raced in four heats and a final was held to determine the winners.

The champions for 2018 were: Gavan Whittenberg (first), Melissa Webb (second) and Jesse James Brandt (third).


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