Overcoming Adversity Through Sailing

Sail To Prevail is helping to get disabled sailors from all walks of life on the water through adaptive sailing programs.

saill to prevail
Adaptable boats allow disabled sailors to get on the water and experience sailing.Sail To Prevail/Dan Erwin

Few places on earth are more closely identified with the sport of sailing than Newport, Rhode Island. And while most people categorize sailing as a lifestyle sport, for families that include a person with disabilities, sailing can be a lifeline. With a 20-year track record of serving the community, the Newport-based non-profit Sail To Prevail, which has helped over 18,000 individuals since the organization was founded in 1982, is in the midst of another summer of providing therapeutic sailing opportunities.

The sailing offerings coordinated by Sail To Prevail are widely varied. They include time on the water during the Confidence is Cool day camps for children aged seven to 17; out-of-hospital experiences provided to pediatric cancer patients, their physicians and parents during Sail Away From Cancer; sailing opportunities for military veterans; and competitive racing on Wednesday nights all summer long.

The core philosophy behind this programming is to provide the participant with an opportunity that allows them to take the immediate joy and gratification that sailing provides and carry it forward the into their daily lives.

Sail To Prevail CEO Paul Callahan has experienced the life-altering effects of sailing first-hand as a C4-5 quadriplegic who has pursued the sport to the elite level, twice representing the USA at the Paralympic Games (2000, 2012). “Sailing teaches teamwork, leadership and self-confidence. My hope is that a participant will have a more positive experience in their daily life, such as when someone doesn’t give them the correct change in the grocery store or closes a door on them. Hopefully they’ve learned to cope better because sailing has shown them they can reach their potential. It has an ongoing impact on their lives.”

Callahan, who has been at the helm of Sail To Prevail for 19 years, is also the current President of the United States Optimist Dinghy Association – the grassroots starting point for most youth sailing across the globe.

“In the wider scope of things, the transformative aspect of therapeutic sailing not only affects the participant, it has a ripple effect on the able-bodied staffers, volunteers and family members.”

For more information, please visit: sailtoprevail.org