For the physically handicapped, sailing offers an enjoyable feeling of freedom. This was the message from Kevin Scott, who obviously has a passion for sailing, to the Pattaya City Expats Club at their March 25 meeting. Kevin (Kev) is a retired chartered accountant who ran his own engineering company in the UK before selling up and moving to Thailand 27 years ago. He discovered sailing when he was 30 and sailed a 36-foot cruising yacht during holidays in Majorca for 20 years before coming to Thailand and joining the yacht racing here. Recently he was asked to take out a severely handicapped person for a sail. The look on the person’s face during this one episode instantly made him decide to devote as much time as possible to helping as many people as possible enjoy the sport of sailing. This event was what raised a passion in him for all to enjoy the freedom of sailing.
Nina, the inspirational motivation to Kev’s Freedom sailing program, is a quadriplegic. A few years ago, while sitting in the middle of the back seat of her uncle’s car, there was a car crash and she was projected through the windscreen. Now she has some movement of her neck but is otherwise totally disabled. She spends her time promoting help for people with disabilities. She is currently building the www.disabledsailingthailand.org website.
After the Club meeting, 21 PCEC members traveled with Kev and Nina to Ocean Marina where Kev had arranged for a large catamaran to take them along to observe Nina as she sailed on a small sailing yacht. Originally, the plan was to use an SV-14 sailing yacht being specifically designed so that it can be controlled by those with physical disabilities; in Nina’s case, using a huff and puff device to allow her to control the sailing of the yacht. During his presentation, Kevin said that based on a very recent trial, he decided that the SV-14 was not quite ready and felt that for safety reasons, Nina would still enjoy the thrill and freedom of sailing on a different type boat.
Though it was the disabled being able to sail that first kindled his desire to see ways to allow the disabled to operate a sailing vessel, on a broader scale he thought that all who are disabled for any reason should be able to do it. His definition of disabled was broadened to include those who are unable to sail for numerous reasons including opportunity, finances, and other physical or emotional limitations. The wonder of sailing in his mind should be made available to all “disabled” persons not just the physical ones.
It became obvious that sailing was special to him as he described the feeling of freedom experienced when the first time you motor out of the marina (required at the marina) and turn that motor off. Just you, the boat, the wind…the realization of freedom as if first felt. When he saw Nina and others with disabilities he was moved to share the glorious freedom with them who were so physically restricted. He then came to the broader realization that many were restricted and made a commitment to share ‘freedom sailing’ with as many as he could reach.
Since coming to this broader understanding he has come to dislike the term ‘disabled sailing’, seeing this as falling short of the bigger ideal of general freedom on the seas. With this new broader understanding of disabled in mind Kev invites and encourages all who have not sailed for whatever reason to come to the marina and try it. If you want to help then you are doubly welcome.
After briefly explaining the ideas and problems designing the special boat qualified to be sailed by the disabled, he gave only reluctant approval to the SV14 project design. Using a white board to sketch his points, Kev allowed PCEC members and guests to understand the design needs for both safety and viable control of a craft by physically limited people. He mentioned that the sea of Thailand basin is an ideal place to sail with light winds and relatively calm seas.
MC Richard Silverberg then brought everyone up to date on current events. This was followed by the “Open Forum” portion of the meeting, where questions are asked and answered and comments made about expat living in Thailand. For more information on the Club and their activities, visit www.pcec.club.