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

MY OPINION....... I commissioned and took part in the design and build so I am biased.... Purpose designed, built, and operated by a registered charity TMT RoRo Sailing Project (1028993) this stunning yacht was named in honour of 'Scott Bader' the resin and fibre glass products supplier that were instrumental in the production of both RoRo yachts.

The RoRoCat 'Spirit of Scott Bader' is the second of the RoRo class of cruising yachts, unique in the world being purpose designed and built to be...


'Scott Bader, was designed to be a 'light air' sailing yacht and has an amazing performance easily reaching 3 to 4 knots in a force 2 breeze. Tacking and jibing are a delight in this 35 foot long 20 foot wide cruising yacht, I know many dingies that are much more difficult to sail. Reefing in at force 3 seems a little strange at first but it is neccessary to restrain this lively beast that always seems to be raring to go.

She gets quite lively in a 'chop' but is controllable and fun and this is a very small price to pay for the light air sailing.... when everyone else is putting their limp sails away and motoring, you simply add a bit more sail and overtake them!

The overall design has been undertaken by Solution Design Associates (SDA) who have applied their creative skills to reinterpret the cruising catamaran to our unique requirements. They have reunited with the renowned naval architect Phil Morrison to produce a truly superb craft. The decision to create a new yacht offered SDA the opportunity to re-evaluate established thinking, resulting in a dramatic and practical new style of sailing catamaran.

The most revolutionary innovation is the adoption of the aft saloon and centre cockpit (which can be covered). This offers single level access between cockpit and saloon, while retaining unimpeded forward visibility from both the saloon and the wheelchair accessible helm.

Sailing is also simplified and made safer as all operations, including hoisting and reefing the mainsail can be carried out without leaving the cockpit. Additional shelter is provided by an all round windscreen and when combined with the cockpit canopy, almost doubles the enclosed saloon area, offering unrivalled access via the aft boarding door and integral ramps, which can, naturally, be deployed by a wheelchair user.

Side and fore decks are wide enough for a wheelchair, accessed via the spacious side deck steps. Thoughtful touches include wheelchair access to stowage of fenders and mooring warps in the transoms, raked helm to clear the knees of wheelchair users.

Tactile surfaces and audible instruments, including an entertainment system that speaks to you for the visually impaired and visual warnings for hearing impaired. A high bridge deck ensures resistance to slamming.

Designed from the outset to allow differently abled sailors to mix freely on an equal basis, the bridge-deck area has a completely flat floor throughout. Good all round visibility was a priority, allowing anyone to sit facing forward and watch the scenery and the activity in the cockpit from the warmth of the saloon. There is plenty of room at the table to allow everyone to gather round at meal times or to study charts.

Repeater instruments can be conveniently situated on the forward bulkhead. The saloon table also lowers to form an extra double berth with a curtain to provide privacy. Attention to detail extends to the use of a tough anti skid surface on the floors and a scuff resistant covering on the lower parts of walls.

For rare occasions when the saloon is not large enough the living space can be extended into the cockpit by fitting the styled canopy.

There is stowage under the front of the berth and a hanging locker to the side. A deck hatch has been sited low down at the end of the berth for ventilation and to allow swift escape in an emergency to a disabled person. Six foot head room is available throughout.

In the starboard hull the access arrangements and aft cabin are identical to the starboard side, but forward of the companionway is an integrated chart table, with a swing out stool and an escape hatch situated beneath it.

Forward in the hull is another double cabin with a good sized locker. As on the starboard side comfort is assured by blown air heating to both cabins plus cooling to the rear cabins.

An electro hydraulic lift can be fitted to each hull. The lift platform stows flush with the floor of the hull when not in use so as to leave the steps available for those able to use them. The lift controls are fitted to the lift hand rail with a shock cord and so actually travel up and down with the lift. Power to the lift has a manual back up facility. The lift power unit and mechanism is of the design used for tail lifts on lorries, so is well proven and very reliable.