Wheelchair Accessible Yachts, Suitable Dinghies and other Equipment of Interest to Disabled Sailing

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Report by wheelchair user Mike Wood, who has a spinal injury at C6/7, paralysed from chest down with partial use of hands, good triceps and biceps and some lats. Dinghy sailing since 1988 and yacht sailing since 1995 Mike designs, modifies and builds yachts and dinghies for disabled people and has a sailing program that provides over 2000 sailing places a year for disabled people.

Email....       mikewood@disabledsailing.org

QUOTE FROM WEBSITE.......The boat can be set up as a full racing dinghy and can meet the needs of a large range of disabilities. It is raced as a single handed boat but it can be adapted to have a buddy on board to help. Racing is governed by the ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing and the Class Association rules. The Challenger has a PY handicap of 1200 Although the boat could never be classed as a one design, the class will retain close control of the design through a restricted design policy. Currently in the UK regatta program there are 3 levels of competition ( Bronze, Silver, Gold) contained in a single fleet. This arrangement caters for a wide range of ability.

Class Association - http://www.challenger-sailing.org.uk/

IMPORTANT disregard the RYA Sailability and Manufactures claims that the Challenger will not capsize.....


and is difficult to right unless you know how. I took the pictures to the left in front of hundreds of people, including RYA officers at a National regatta so every one knows this.

However this should not distract you from sailing this classic, it does not happen very often, it can easily be avoided and it can be can be a really fun boat in a good breeze, easy to sail but tricky to sail well. But it's single sail, uncomfortable and un supportive seat, the ease it gets into irons and difficulty getting out again, and the problems taking it apart and putting it together again for moving it around make it a bit of a pain and not a great boat of choice. There is a very loyal and friendly class association that is very pro-active promoting sailing for disabled people.

5/10 - As a boat for all types of disabilities - the seat and controls do not make this a great boat for all types of disabilities but it is easy to modify to allow more types of disabilities to sail the boat.

4/10 - As a boat for experienced disabled sailors - it is a fun boat but many experienced sailors wont sail it .... possibly not enough sails or tuning.

5/10 - As a training boat - although many people have added extra seats to the side the controls and performance do not make this an ideal boat.

9/10 - Ease of rigging - very easy indeed, the only reason I do not give it 10 is that I cant do it myself.

3/10 - Ease of transport and launching - it is easy to assemble but it takes time and two people.

7/10 - Controls - very simple, easy and nice to use for all but the most seriously disabled and some disabilities may not reach all controls.

9/10 - Quality of fittings and build - good quality moulding's and fittings.

9/10 - Getting in and out - very easy for almost everyone.

6/10 - Sailing qualities - in a good breeze this is a fun boat to sail but it will not forgive a mistake when tacking and does not have a lot of tuning available.

8/10 - As a club boat - you can leave it assembled, its a tough as old boots, its stable and easy to rig and sail, and instructor/carer seat can be added - what more can you ask... its only real drawback is that it takes up a lot of space.


MY OPINION.......is that this boat was the mainstay of sailing for disabled people for a long time and although it did a lot of good it also did some bad in that it put off some people.

But it is a good boat and I think only poor marketing prevented it being taken up around the world. What a wonderful boat this would be in the shallow waters of the Florida Keys (and just to upset you this is where I am writing this report - Christmas Day, gusting to 30kts, flat calm, all the Hobbies blown over, temperature 31 degrees).

At first sight it looks as if the pontoons will hinder getting in and out but they are easy to lift and you can juggle them into a position to help get in and out.

The seating is OK for most people and easy to modify, the controls, yes both of them!, fall to hand and again can be easily modified. Seats for instructors, passengers, carers can be fitted to the pontoon poles.

The Challenger sails OK in light airs but can get into irons easily and there is a technique to get it going again. In good breezes this is not so much of a problem and the boat is pleasantly quick and fairly responsive.

Some controls may be a bit awkward or out of reach for some disabilities but they are very easy to modify.

The Challenger is very stable. BUT IT CAN CAPSIZE. It will dig a hull in gusts and you get very wet but rarely feel the boat is under any stress or likely to cause you a problem.

If anything the Challenger is a little underrated, but its been around a long time and a design update or new modern technology/method design on the same lines could be a very good.

Would I sail one today if offered the chance?.............. yes please, and I love to race them.