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

click to enlarge

single seat cockpit

canvas seat

wrong keels can be fitted
(303 pic taken at UK Nats 04)

stability problems 1

stability problems 2

stability problems 3

stability problems 4


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 Hansa WEBSITE....... Hansa 2.3 Single Seater The Hansa 2.3 Single with its comfortable seat, joystick steering, single rope control and amazing maneuverability has to be easiest boat in the world to sail. Add to that the wide side decks, ballasted centreboard and reefable sail and it also has to be one of the safest. What makes this little boat so unique is the confidence and sense of security it gives even the most unlikely new sailor. As it can also be fitted with Servo Assist electric controls it allows even those with a severe physical disability to also experience the joys of freedom on the water.

The Hansa 2.3 Wide can be sailed sedately by two average sized adults, or as a sporty little racer by a single sailor. As with the 2.3 Single, the sailor's weight low in the boat enhances stability, but the Wide having narrow side decks needs the solo sailor to swivel their upper body weight to windward to keep the boat dry in breezy conditions. With the same simplicity of rig and steering, and security of ballast centreboard and roller reefing, the Wide is an ideal entry level craft for clubs and schools, and as a family fun boat craft as it can be comfortably handled by two small children, an adult or child, or their grand parents.

Class Association - http://www.hansaclass.org.uk/

My judgment is that the comfortable seat is not very comfortable, the joy stick is a bit vague, the reefable sail works while its new, the 2.3 wide is the better of the two but both need more development...

5/10 - As a boat for all types of disabilities - the seat, controls and not being able to see where you are going at times make this boat difficult for some disabilities.

1/10 - As a boat for experienced disabled sailors - its looks, poor performance, controls and fittings will not attract experienced sailors.

3/10 - As a training boat - cant reach controls, poor seating, poor quality fittings and control layout hinder training.

5/10 - Ease of rigging - the keel is a real problem but it is possible to leave masts in so rigging is just a matter of trying to get the furler to work.

6/10 - Ease of transport and launching - the weight and method of fitting the keel make this very difficult and potentially dangerous.

5/10 - Controls - are poorly positioned and of poor quality and unreliable.

3/10 - Quality of fittings and build - the molding's are ok but fittings poor.

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

4/10 - Sailing qualities - the sails are difficult to set well, the boat does not point very well.

5/10 - As a club boat - its initial low cost is out weighed by poor quality fitting and design problems and the weight of the keel.


MY OPINION.......I first sailed an Hansa at Rutland over 25 years ago. I thought is was a great step forward for sailing for disabled people and looked forward to seeing its development.

Sadly today I still find the same problems as I found all those years ago. The keel is a nightmare to put in and out and the fittings and controls are terrible. Worst of all new models have come along with different weight keels but they are interchangeable with potentially disastrous results.

So I do not think this is a very good boat for disabled people in general and it is successful because it is a relatively low initial capital cost making it easy for able-bodied people to give lip service to 'providing for disabled people'.

I think its success is based on clever marketing by able-bodied people to able-bodied people who think they are doing good things for disabled people, certainly the purchaser profile indicates this as my research shows it is charities and charitable organisations that purchase Hansaes not keen individuals.


This was very effectively demonstrated at the UK National Championships in 2004 when a 303 capsized in 20 knot gusts, and stayed down if front of 50 or so spectators. This happened right in front of me and I was able to take many pics. The conditions were 10 to 15 kts. - gusting to around 20 kts. A gust hit the 303 and it went over far enough for the crew to fall out on to the mainsail which put the sail well into the water.

The crew was very quickly and effectively rescued by the safety boat. The 303 stayed down until a rescue boat lifted the sail allowing the 303 to pop up. I was told afterwards that a keel from different model Hansa had been mistakenly fitted.

The boom can be very dangerous for people with limited or slow movement.

The seating is terrible, providing no support and has caused some pretty nasty minor injuries as the steering goes under the seat and can catch your bum, and there is no adjustment to speak of.

I have also heard that many providers for learning difficulties do not like the side by side seating arrangement.

The rigging in general on all the boats I tested seemed the very cheapest and nastiest you could get. I would expect this on an Escape Solsa dinghy costing a 900 inc Vat, but not on a dinghy aimed at the disabled market where free running lines are essential. The other dinghies in this price range run reasonable kit - why cant Hansa.

Most fittings and pulleys should be replaced immediately to avoid frustration and possible accidents. The running rigging also seems to be poor quality and should be replaced for similar reasons.

The sheets can catch in the oar yoke on the boom and cannot be freed by a seated disabled person and this could be very dangerous. The running lines and pulleys are difficult at best and a disaster in salty conditions.

The roller reefing on the main did not work easily on any of the boats I tested which is a nuisance or dangerous depending when you need it.

The keel is a nightmare and jammed every time I tried to lift one. It is foolhardy and possibly very dangerous to try and fit one by hand. The safe way to fit it was demonstrated by a hard working dad who used a sack barrow to move the keel about and a person lift to pop it in and out, and he had this off to fine art.

So now we know why Hansaes are recommended for disabled clubs (they have lifts). So you can use an Hansa anywhere King Kong lives? or you can qualify for sailing an Hansa with the hernia you get putting the keel in!

I found seven Hansa's (various models) with full electric's only two worked (see Hansa Liberty and 303).

All the 'string' on the floor sometimes gets caught up so rope bags would be an essential Hansaory for normal use.

So sailing the Hansa 2.3...... Well the 2 sail 2 seat version is better than a 303 or Liberty and the single sail version to me is just a fun toy. The sails seem to work just about ok, it tacks OK provided nothing jams and you can get the sheets in the cleats.

Not very precise at anything really but I enjoyed sailing them and would get in another one to-morrow providing it was a warm day, not raining, not too windy, someone else would set it up and recover it and so on and so on... yes its fun and I enjoyed it, but I think its over priced, poorly equipped, and needs a lot more development.

In the opinion of many people the boat needs a lot of development otherwise it is just a bit of fun that you will tire of very quickly indeed. There are too many things wrong for it to be a beginners boat and it doesn't offer enough for someone who wants to sail.

So many have been purchased by 'well wishers' that many languish unused or have fallen into a sad state of repair, but the sheer amount of boats available ensure a good turn out at regattas.

If you buy one be prepared to spend time and money getting it sorted. If you are a Club be aware of its limitations - Hansaes can capsize/lose their keels if you are not careful.


If you strap a disabled person in one that capsizes are you prepared for the possible consequences?

Would I sail one today if offered the chance?.............. if there was nothing else at all!.