Inclusion at the helm with passionate crew | Mark Rothfield

OFFICIAL LAUNCH: A Hansa 303, similar to that being donated to Sailability Belmont by Headstart ABI Service.
OFFICIAL LAUNCH: A Hansa 303, similar to that being donated to Sailability Belmont by Headstart ABI Service.

SAILABILITY Belmont will officially recognise the donation of a new Hansa 303 dinghy by Headstart ABI Service when they launch the “Sue Mc” at Belmont today, taking the club’s fleet of sailing craft to 20.

The volunteer-based, not-for-profit organisation provides sailing opportunities for people with disabilities.

Four mornings a week, they help 50 to 60 sailors to get afloat by rigging the boats, assisting with access and accompanying the sailors on the water.

Sue Mc is named after Headstart ABI Service executive director Sue McHattie, who’s also the daughter of the late, legendary Lake Macquarie yachtsman Don McHattie.

Don owned the beautiful 1918-vintage timber racing yacht Werona, as well as a Moody 33, for many years. Less well known is that Don also received the George Medal in 1954 for rescuing four fellow army reservists from Stockton Beach’s wild surf when their amphibious landing vehicle sank.

He passed on a love of, and respect for, sailing to Sue. Nevertheless, she was surprised and humbled to learn that the Headstart board had elected to recognise her 32-year tenure at the helm with the naming rights honour.

Headstart ABI Service provides specialised support to people living with an acquired brain injury. The group has had a strong working relationship with Sailability Belmont for many years.

“The brain injury may be result from an accident, a stroke or substance abuse,” McHattie explains.

“Often returning to the passions people once had, or finding new skills, is difficult for any number of reasons, and Headstart helps by providing strategies and support to reconnect people with their passions and achieve new goals.”

Donating the Hansa 303, which is ideal for beginners and extremely safe and easy to sail, was a perfect fit.

TAKING IT ON: Sailors with disAbilities' TP52 Wot Eva sailing at Sail Port Stephens.

TAKING IT ON: Sailors with disAbilities' TP52 Wot Eva sailing at Sail Port Stephens.

“They give many people with a disability an opportunity to experience the thrill and the freedom that comes from sailing … the fact that it’s named after me is very special, given that sailing is also my passion.”

Lorraine Blair from Sailability Belmont says the donation will allow the sailing group to offer more people more opportunities to sail.

The Sue Mc is being officially launched at 10am today at Sailability Belmont, next door to Belmont 16s.

Meanwhile, it was great to see the Sydney-based Sailors With disAbilities group successfully compete at Sail Port Stephens with their TP52 Wot Eva. Skipper David Pescud, who is dyslexic, assembled a crew of 12 that included a visually-impaired mainsheet trimmer, a spina bifida sufferer on the headsail, a deaf sailor manning the hydraulic pumps, and an incomplete paraplegic crewwoman on the backstay.

“That’s the whole point of the exercise,” Pescud says.

“This is not exclusion, it’s inclusion.

“We’re here because we don’t want to be isolated and we have a point to prove.

“We also like going fast and having fun,” he adds with a wink. “It’s our first regatta at Port Stephens but I’ve been coming here since 1955 … It’s kind of a secret how good it is.”

Wot Eva competed in the Performance Racing division at Sail Port Stephens, winning line-honours in the two short passage races against a strong fleet and taking a respectable second placing on handicap in one.

Starter craft for kids

A NEW line of fibreglass powerboats for kids, known as Starter Craft, has been launched on the Gold Coast.

Around two metres long, each boat weighs 80 kilograms, is electric powered, and suits youngsters aged five to 12. They’re designed for use in calm, non-tidal waters, with a top speed of almost five knots.

A heavy-duty 110 AH battery provides up to five hours of fun on a single charge.

They are large enough to fit two young children, or even a child and a small adult, while an inbuilt air cavity ensures positive flotation regardless of the amount of water shipped.

First keg run goes down well

NINE 16-foot skiffs from Belmont, Gosford and Sydney had a whale ale of a time during Sail Port Stephens’ inaugural Murray’s Keg Run, sailed from the cosy aquatic club in Salamander Bay.

With two cold kegs of Murray’s brew on tap at the club for post-racing festivities, and four more on offer to the line and handicap winners, it was a perfect tonic after a season of sailing.

Sydney’s Lee Sails, helmed by Sarah Lee, took overall honours over the two days of windward-leeward racing, edging out Belmont’s Piper Planning. The handicap prize went to Aristocrat and the “lucky door” to East Coast Marine.