A new opportunity for disabled sailors – Queensland Para Sailing Academy

Currently in Queensland there is no real opportunity for people living with a disability to become involved in competitive sailing. The QPSA is the brainchild of Southport Yacht Club members Ross Manning and Matt Speakman, both Para Sailors who race their Skud 18 (Paralympic class boats), with great success, in the SYC inshore fleet races and off the beach dinghies.

The purpose of QPSA is to provide a pathway that will allow participants to get the required coaching and access to equipment that will enable them to go from novice right thru to national level contender with the ability necessary to make it onto the Australian squad.

To achieve these lofty goals the QPSA has partnered with Sailability Gold Coast and SYC. Partnering with Sailability gives a great boost to both organisations, all development sailors of the QPSA are required to first become volunteer members of Sailability and undergo the already existing and well-established sail training program and participate in the Tuesday program, taking those with impairments that prevent them sailing solo, out in the access dinghies. Once these sailors reach an adequate level of proficiency they will move into the QPSA elite training program.

The first step in the elite program will be the very small but extremely technical 2.4Mr, a scaled down replica of the old 12m America Cup yachts. Though these beautiful little boats only have two sails, there are over 15 lines in the cockpit, requiring the skipper to continuously adjust the sails and rig to get the best performance out of them.

There will then be an option to move into the two and three-person classes should they wish.

QPSA is already up and running, with coaching from Ashleigh Swadling (QLD female youth sailor of the year) and Max Quan, major improvements in sailing performance have already been achieved for Matt and Ross. Moving forward, QPSA is planning a drive to attract new participants and major publicity launch later in the year and is also looking to host the first Queensland State Para Sailing Championship in conjunction with SYC possibly in November.

Mostly the Academy is trying to find corporate sponsors to achieve its objectives of purchasing vessels and hiring coaches and support crew.

Interested companies and anyone interested in participating in the program can contact Matthew Speakman via 0414 653 507 or qpsa@bigpond.com

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