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About Us

The Sailability Story

The United Kingdom

The origins of 'Sailability' as we know it today trace back to the United Kingdom in the early 1980's. Then, it would be fair to accredit the beginnings of sailing for people with disability to Ian Harrison MBE and several of his colleagues. In the late 1980's Ian gathered with a group of mates and founded a competitive sailing organisation. They named it 'Sailability' after the British disability driving organisation 'Motability'. The original logo is that used by Sailability in Australia today.

Ian's overriding aim was that no person with disability should be denied the opportunity to sail. He became an International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) Vice-Chair at the foundation's inception in 1988. He went on to chair the merged Sailability and Royal Yachting Association's Seamanship Foundation which became RYA Sailability. Ian retired in 2005.

The Seamanship Foundation was established to teach basic sea craft skills because, during World War 2, it was discovered the average British seaman knew little sea craft.

Although Ian Harrison is rightly credited with establishing 'Sailability', others had come before. Some have endured and include 'The Island Trust', which became a registered charity in 1973. The trust supports deserving young people to address inequalities in accessing the benefits of sailing. Founder Richard (Dick) Lloyd MBE was determined that financial and social barriers to participation be removed.

Some years later Richard Kenyon created the 'Nancy Oldfield Trust' which was registered as a charity in 1984. Richard's idea was to provide a centre and facilities where anyone with disability or who was socially disadvantaged could participate in water-based activities on a day or residential basis. Frensham Pond was another early supporter of disability sailing and was represented as recently as 2018 in the Hiroshima World Hansa titles.

At the beginning of 2018 RYA Sailability had 178 accredited United Kingdom sites.

Sailability established in Victoria

In the early 1990's Campbell Rose, a member of the board of the then Australian Yachting Federation (now Australian Sailing) asked his father, Dr Alan Rose, to investigate establishing Sailability in Australia. Alan did so and in 1991 the Victorian Yachting Council established a Sailability group at Albert Part Lake in Melbourne. The group remained small and local despite it then being called 'Sailability Australia'. Today they operate as 'The Boatshed'.

By 2000, Sailability Victoria had been incorporated as a charity while continuing to operate as a committee of Yachting Victoria. At the start of 2018 there were 28 Sailability organisations in Victoria, mainly operating in conjunction with local yacht clubs.


Sailability NSW began as a committee of Yachting NSW chaired by yachtie-wheelie Denis Critchley. It incorporated as an association in December 1995. Sailing commenced in early 1995 at Gosford. There are now some 27 Sailability programs in NSW.

In Queensland

In 1997, Wyn Treasure, Commodore Southport Yacht Club (SYC), worked with other SYC members,  Dr Graeme Syvier and Dr David Straton who had donated an Access 2.3 to the Cerebral Palsy League. The dinghy was used to provide lessons to a patient. More dinghies and sailor clients followed leading to the incorporation of Sailability Gold Coast (SGC) in March 2000, the first Sailability club incorporated in Queensland. SYC and SGC continue to work closely together.

Wyn Treasure did not stand idle. He became the first president of Sailability Qld Inc. (SQ) which was incorporated in April 2000 . SQ is the coordinating body for Sailability clubs in Queensland. On note with the RYA Foundation, SQ is an enabler of change and growth, and a supportive agent to Queensland clubs, rather than an actual provider of disability sailing.

Sailability Sunshine Coast followed (incorporated in June 2000), then Sailability Bayside (incorporated in March 2003). There are now 15 separately incorporated clubs affiliated with SQ (see our 'Clubs' page for a listing). Sailability Mackay is the newest club.

Australia today

Sailability clubs now operate in every State in Australia. Clubs are represented nationally by delegates to Australia Sailing's National Sailability Committee (nominated by State yachting associations). A variety of on-water craft is used to suit local conditions and the individual needs of our client sailors regardless of disability or social disadvantage.


Sailability and clubs with similar operations provide sailing to people with disability in some 23 countries, including the United States, Canada, Greece, Japan, Italy and Hong Kong. 'Sail to Prevail' in the United States, for example, has been operating for around 30 years. Whereas Sailability Hong Kong is a relative newcomer. The latter commenced sailing in 2010.


This brief history was informed by our own research and from conversations with Stan Phillips (a SQ Life Member) and Dr Phil Vardy (an early motivator for Sailability in NSW). Dr Vardy calls on his own substantial body of research, including as a Churchill Fellowship scholar, and his friendship with Graeme Adam (a National Sailability Committee member).

[References are available on request.]

Our Role


Objectives of Sailability Queensland Inc.

[Extract from Rules of Incorporation ]

1.6 Objectives

(a) To provide a safe and fun environment where people with a disability are accepted and encouraged to participate in the sport of sailing.

(b) To implement safety and procedural policies in relationship to activities pertaining to disabled sailing around Queensland.

(c) To support people with disabilities to participate in the association at all levels.

(d) To increase rehabilitational, recreational, competitive, therapeutic and training opportunities available to people with disabilities through the provision of sailing and power boating and sail and power boat training programs- from fun and social activity to elite level competition.

(e) To provide sailing opportunities for people with disabilities throughout regional areas of Qld.

(f) To provide support, information and training for new branches and volunteers.

(g) To organise regatta and championship events at state level.

(h) To liaise with sporting bodies, educational institutions, government agencies and other relevant bodies to represent the interests of the members of Sailability Qld.

(i) To implement fund-raising and sponsorship activities to maintain the financial viability of Sailability Qld.

(j) To liaise with other States and Territories on appropriate matters such as event co-ordination and promotion of Sailability Qld.

(k) To liaise with Sailability Qld. branches to coordinate events within Queensland.

(l) To support Sailability Australia as the national co-ordinating authority for disabled sailing in this country.


Sailability Qld. is keen to help interested communities start new Sailability clubs. We are able to provide assistance in all aspects of setting up, training, insurance, web listing, publicity, volunteer recruitment and funding.

Please contact the Sailability Qld. President via the “Contact Us” page.

Preview us


  • ABN 68 107 249 956

  • Postal Address: PO Box 5454 Manly Q 4179

  • Not for Profit Charity registered with the ACNC 

  • Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) - gifts of $2 and over are tax deductible and may be made to our bank account:

    • Bendigo Bank BSB 633 - 000 Account No. 161607023

  • Registered for GST

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