Sailing to better stroke rehabilitation

An Australian program called Sailability is exploring sailing can help stroke patients regain language skills, as well as their sense of hope and wonder.



Ask any person what they understand by the effects of a stroke and the reply generally is one involving minimal hope, and a perception of negative life changes for the victim’s family.

But it’s what happens when a person is discharged that ultimately determines their progress and rehabilitation. This is where programs like the nation-wide Sailability initiative come in.

Sailability involves people with a disability participating in sailing in a two person dinghy known as a 3.03, and when they have developed sufficient skill and confidence they can learn to sail solo in a dinghy known as a Liberty. The dinghies are specially constructed so that it is virtually impossible for them to capsize.

The heavy centre board is generally lowered in place on a hoist or quayside crane and when in place provides excellent dinghy stability in winds up to 30 knots. However, no participant would ever leave the jetty when winds reach as high as 20 knots. Safety is paramount, and in our Goolwa club on the Lower Murray three safety boats circle the Sailability fleet at all times.

Generally, people with a stroke sail for 45 minutes to an hour in a Saturday morning session with the option of an additional sail in the afternoon. We have thirty disabled men and women participating, with an age range generally from 18 to 70-plus years. Mostly they are people with age-onset disabilities or young people who have been involved in traumatic accidents. As they progress they have options of sailing in club, state, national and international championships, and as many of them say, ‘that’s a far cry from a being in a bedridden state in a nursing home,’ which is where many of them come from when they first arrive at Sailability.

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