Visually Impaired Sailors’ Week - Blind Week
Report on Recent Events
VISaiors’ Week is an inspiring annual event that gives around 50 blind and partially sighted people the chance to develop sailing skills by crewing aboard cruising yachts. The 25 regular private yachts , their skipper/owners and their sighted crew provide their VI participants with an amazing sense of empowerment …. the freedom of the sea! It is a week’s experience all concerned never forget.
The event’s base (where crews spent their first and last nights) alternates annually between the Royal Southampton Yacht Club and the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. The focus is a “cruise in company“ as on day two the event then divides into 5 fleets of around 5 yachts, each fleet with its own itinerary.
All fleets start by focussing on briefings and VI awareness training - including safety procedures . They then embark upon a daily programme of manageable coastal passages and sociable evening gatherings.
A recent VISailors’ Week in Cornwall was notable on many counts. It attracted a record crop of new-to-sailing visually impaired adults, and also new volunteer skippers- the most enterprising of who sailed all the way from East Anglia to participate in the event. Being Cornwall , it had its wet and windy moments, when a quickly arranged National Maritime Museum visit, involving touch and feel exhibits including a vintage diving suit was a great hit!
During the rest of the week, on passage between some great West Country harbours , new VI crew helmed using audio-compasses (including some based upon prototype smartphone apps) whilst more accomplished VI sailors (including Lucy Hodges , the UK World Champion VI sailor and Honorary RSYC Member) relished the breezy conditions which allowed them to sail by the feel of the wind and the motion of the yacht – a great sense of empowerment for all concerned!
At the start of the event , the sighted skippers and crew who were new to sailing with VIcrew were all provided with suitable training and aids . In addition, the organisers ensured that new sighted skippers were allocated more experienced VI crew members, one of whom kindly said that she would “ show him the ropes!” . Thus started one of many long term friendships between people of widely differing abilities - which are a hallmark of the event.
New sighted skippers and crew, and visually impaired adults who have never taken to the water are all warmly invited to consider participating in the next Blind Week – always scheduled in the last week in June. The 2017 event will be based at RSYC’s Ocean Village Southampton location, then visiting Warsash Sailing Club , Gins Farm in the beautiful Beaulieu river and other parts of the Solent and south coast. For participating “sighties” , sailing experience is of course necessary , but experience with visually impaired people is not – as stated, awareness training and plenty of subsequent help and support is available.
More information, advice and encouragement is available from the event’s Co-Ordinator Will Bridge at email@example.com .
After a day on the water, a bit of sociable apres sail !