The best way to celebrate a sailing achievement is to go sailing! That’s what the St. Maarten Yacht Club did to commemorate its Sailing School’s 30th anniversary on September 16, 2023. To mark this milestone, the school hosted a day of festivities, including the ‘Bart’s Bash’ sailing race, free try-out sailing sessions, and the highlight of the day – the unveiling of its groundbreaking Sailability project. This is a new project that will enable the school to introduce the sport of sailing to people with disabilities.
“One of the Club’s goals is to make sailing available for a broader audience. With the well-established Primary School Sailing Program, we are giving weekly free sailing classes to 48 students, for a full school year. We’ve seen that there are not many sports available in St. Maarten for people with a disability, thus we’ve decided to start the Sailability Project at the St. Maarten Yacht Club,” says Saskia Revelman, SMYC Manager.
The SMYC is collaborating with the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF), and their day activity center, the Sister Basilic Center, who were interested in participating right away. The highly skilled staff from the WYCCF selected four students to join the sailing classes, held two mornings a week.
The most important factor in setting up this program, Revelman says, was the specially designed boat, called an RS Venture Connect. The SMYC was able to purchase this boat with funds from R4CR (Resources for Community Resilience), which is financed by the Government of the Netherlands via the St. Maarten Trust Fund. The boat arrived in early July and the first Sailability classes started on August 22.
“My advice for other islands who would like to establish a Sailability project is to do some research on the sport and leisure activities for this target group. Sailing is a great and safe way to enjoy the outdoors, especially in the sunny Caribbean. It might look like a big step to start a program like this, but there is a lot of knowledge available online via World Sailing and the different Sailability projects around the world. Sailing should be available for everyone,” says Revelman. smyc.com