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Blind Sailing Fun Keelboat League

Well, 2023 and we were back on the water in February at South Cerney Sailing Club, for our delayed end of season awards and our national Keelboat League.

The weeks before Jonny Stevenson and Lucy had their figures crossed for the weather and the trains, but luck was on their side and the train strikes were the week before and the weather was winter sun wall to wall with light winds building.

Saturday morning all arrived and registered there attendance of the racing taking part, so are so grateful to our volunteers that helped make this event, but the first thanks must go to the members of SCSC who donated the use of there flying 15’s and to the club for the use of there facilities.

Boats were rigged and launched, and Jonny Stevenson race officer for the day gave the group a briefing and took any questions from the NOR and SI’s. This event was racing but the charity wanted to make it open to all and fun, as some of our sailors were stepping back into a boat after a long time off from sailing. We also had some of our sighted sailors step in and have a go supporting as taction’s helping the VI’s navigate.

The racing was slightly different and was based on the sailors individual points as helm, so for some races the tactician would provide the full race information and for the other races they would paint the picture but leave the decision and sail trim to the sailors. For some this was a big step that they all grabbed with two hands, never looked back just looked forward with their learning even if some beats they took some time to find up wind or down wind.

The day sore the wind pick up to a nice steady light breeze but as the light started to fade so it the wind but a good nine races had taken place and had seen all take the helm for the required number of races to complete the series.

We were also grateful to have Adam Lewis from ARB Tree and Garden Solutions one of our sponsors with us for the day, who took a place in a flying 15 and joined in the racing and found out how blind sailors work their magic first hand.

This day was meant to be fun and I can say watch all come off the water even those that had battelled and felt lost some time ended the day with a smile. The Flying 15 provide a good feel for the sailors and in lighter breeze provide good feedback and the move through the water. We were also grateful to Peter Conway for providing some on the water coaching and providing some thoughts of how he can work with us in the future.

We are very lucky to have volunteers that take up so many roles, including feeding and watering us all. Big thanks to Jackie, Pat and Pip we ate like kings during the day and they kept the hot drinks flowing, whilst walking the guide dogs. They then prepared our evening dinner for our 2022 awards.

The awards started just around 19:00, Lucy started with an apologising for not being able to run this event at the end of 2022 but the strikes made it difficult.

She then thanked all the volunteers and sponsor, ARB, Starboard Card, Rooster, RYA Sailability and many others. Lucy also praised the team work at the RYA Sailaiblilty Keelboat League in supporting a difficult situation. She then awarded the RYA Cup to the winners,

Jonny Stevenson

Emma Wrixon

John Churcher

Lucy Hodges

Adam then presented the Blind Sailing Awards for 2022

Ian Cormack Cup - was awarded to Colin Midgley for his continuing service and ideas to support training and also happy to answer questions. Emma Wrixon was recognised for her support in getting the match racing programme off the group and working with the team in France.

Carley Finley Youth Award – this was awarded to Sarah Featherstone for her support all over the UK, not just on the water but on shore. Lucy has asked that she changes her chose of drink form milk to something a bit easier to ask for at the bar. Recognition was given to Oscar Philips for his support on the water and helping all gain confidence.

Helen Walsh Service Award – This was awarded to Jackie Featherstone for her none stop cooking, baking and shopping with the charity at her hart. Recognition was to Lauran Bean for her support, Lauran has a true understanding of a blind or partial sighted person can achieve and works with them to give confidence, she also happy to go the extra mile and find missing boxes from doorsteps!!

Wood Spoon – Went to Lucy Hodges all we will say is the story is around not packing the essentials.

It was then to the awards for the Blind Sailing Keelboat League. Lucy said that all had took the day in its meaning close racing and also pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones.

Winner of the Graeme Love National Keelboat League – Emily Wright.

2nd Vicky Sheen

3rd Lucy Hodges

Lucy closed by remembering that these trophies are in memory of key members we have lost and 2022 sore the loss of Ben mum Sue and thanked them for their kind donations.

It was then time to catch up over a few drinks.

The day was capture by John and Lauren and put into a great little video:

Group getting ready for racing

Big thanks to all involved and for those that were not able to make it there will be plenty more opportunities.

Sunday, we joined in with two club races which was great as there was 16 boats on the start line so gives our sailors the exposure to racing in larger fleets.


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