Anyone with any degree of paralysis can learn to sail. Whether you're paralyzed from the waist down or the neck down, there are adapted equipment that allows the aspiring sailor to control the direction of the boat and the sails.
You can also learn to sail before you even touch the water.
Sailing simulators for training
That's possible thanks to adapted sailing simulators, which give people a chance to try out different adaptations on a boat that reacts to the person and projects situations on a screen. This technology gives people peace of mind testing the waters, allowing them to get a sense of how to maneuver the boat, without fear of being out in the water. The simulator also sets up challenges for sailors to complete a racecourse and then attempt to improve their times over their practice sessions, training the sailors on reacting to different situations and controlling the boat.
I used a boat simulator and it reduced my fear about getting on the water. Knowing what to expect when I got out there was very helpful.
There are boats for independent sailors, doubles and triples for recreation and/or competition. Boats are designed and weighted to avoid tipping over, even in the strong winds. There's a crane type lift that hooks onto a harness that lowers sailors into the boat and out into the water. At different sailing outings, a coaching boat is motoring around, helping guide and instruct the sailors. People go out all months of the year, and people with all types of mobilities are welcome. The goal is to get people on the water.
Boat adaptations for people with different levels of mobility
There are a variety of adaptations depending on the degree of mobility. For someone with upper body spasticity, there is a controller that can fit to the floor and allows the sailor to control it with his or her feet. For those with no mobility below the neck, there are chin controls fitted on a bib that can be altered to fit a person's body and allow them to control the boat. For those who prefer to use "sip and puff" technology, there's a control module for that. Boats have also been configured for people who require a ventilator.
Whether you aspire to be a Paralympian, or just want a new activity to enjoy with your friends and family, sailing is accessible, so get out there and try it. Share this with someone who might be interested in taking up sailing!