The Saturday Mercury



Sailability, a program providing access to sailing for newcomers and people with disabilities, has a firm foothold in Tasmania.

On Tuesday, at least one of the latest Access dinghies to be operated by sailability Tasmania will be on view in Hobart at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Group chairman Bob Silberberg will bring the dinghies from Launceston for the afternoon and anyone interested in the concept is welcome to visit from 2pm.

Sailability Tasmania is run by a committee comprised of representatives of health groups working with the disabled and sailing organizations and clubs.

RYCT vice-commodore Alastair Douglas said it was hoped that as Sailability became established, the club would become a host and operate the dinghies on a regular basis.

The two boats in Tasmania so far are a two-seater Access 2.3 dinghy with joystick tiller and an Access 303 with full electronic controls.

Silberberg said they had come to the state with the help of grants from Sport and Recreation (Sport Tasmania Grants Program). Funding was being sought also from several business organizations and other groups that had expressed an interest in the ideals of Sailability, which has grown dramatically in Australia in the past eight years. The program began in the United Kingdom in 1986.

Silberberg said from its beginning in Australia there had been an almost immediate shift from the original concept of sailing at all levels, from fun and social up to elite levels of competition. It provided opportunities, too, to train all sailors in rescue and sailing techniques.

Sailability was also a vital means for both disabled and able-bodies sailors to interact and socialize on and off the water.

“The outdated phrase ‘sailing for the disabled’ has blossomed into ‘providing sailing opportunities for everyone, regardless of ability’,” said Silberberg.


Sailability Australia (with which the state body is affiliated is a non-profit organization with wide support from governments and sporting groups and authorities, councils for the disabled and those working with the disabled, as well as corporate sponsors.

Key Cottee, the first woman to sail around world solo, is national chairperson of Sailability Australia.

Silberberg said that the dinghies in Tasmania were conceived by Victorian amateur boat designer Chris Mitchell. They have become a class in their own right with franchises granted in UK and US.

The boats are fiberglass, the 2.3 version weighing 46kg. The combination of a concave hull shape and a one-meter centerboard weighted with 16kg of lead makes it extremely stable.

The electronic version is fitted with controls – for both the sheets and tiller – strapped to the user’s chest and which can be activated even by the chin.

Silberberg said the boat was “ a lot of fun and challenging to sail” even though the unstayed rig and extremely simple to operate.

He said the Access class would gain national prominence when the aspect Australian Access championships were held on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra on February 4-5.

For more information on sailability Tasmania contact the Tasmanian Yachting Association on 6224 3644 or Bob Sikberberg on 6383 4258.