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.......Welcome! ...to the world of Martin 16 sailing — the world’s most comfortable sport boat! With a deep ballasted keel and all control systems right in front of you, the Martin 16 is the sport boat for sailors of all abilities. The lifting keel makes trailer launching simple from any ramp. There’s no need for a large crew — the Martin 16 can be rigged by one person and sailing in minutes.

CLASS ASSOCIATION - http://www.weta.org.uk/

My judgment.... the most versatile and fun dinghy I have ever sailed... maybe even better than a Hobie. NOTE - This is not a standard Weta this has after market modifications fitted to allow it to compete within the GT class rules of the UK Weta class association. The Disabled Sailors Association (DSA) can make parts for you or tell you how to DIY.

10/10 - As a boat for all types of disabilities – very very easy to add what ever you need in the way of seats or mods to controls, stable yet exciting, very comfortable.

10/10 - As a boat for experienced disabled sailors – with the three sails to play with, its speed and rate of turn (it is very nimble) there is not a lot of time to worry about real fine tuning, but boat balance, dagger board position are important to get the very best results.

9/10 - As a training boat – this is a very versatile and stable platform and ideal for training as it performs well with any sail combination and there is ample room for an instructor. I only drop it a point as some clubs will not allow multihuls.

10/10 - Ease of rigging - very easy indeed, slot in outriggers held on with ties, carbon two piece mast is a doddle, all lines colour coded.

10/10 - Ease of transport and launching – Considerable thought has gone into this and it is obvious by its simplicity and ease in every aspect..

10/10 - Controls - very simple, very easy and nice to use, very easy to adapt for disabled people.

10/10 - Quality of fittings and build – I am being very very picky if you look very carefully you can find blemishes but nothing even remotely bad. Stitching on nets is hard on bare knees.

9/10 - Getting in and out - very easy for almost everyone, I knock off a point as some lifts will not be able to reach the cockpit.

10/10 - Sailing qualities – I found it wonderful in all conditions, such a versatile little boat.

10/10 - As a club boat – Simple and easy to rig and launch, crew by one to four people, super performance, will sail well with any combination of sail set up, very very good club boat.



It is simply the best dinghy I have tested by far….

NOTE - This is not a standard Weta this has after market modifications fitted to allow it to compete within the GRAND TOURING class rules of the UK Weta class association. The Disabled Sailors Association (DSA) can make parts for you or tell you how to DIY. Contact them at dsahq@ntlworld.com .

It is possible pitch-pole or capsize it but we have not been able to do it. We have only seen video of this and it always seems to be with only one crew on board. If you are sensible about rig and conditions we think you do not need to worry.

So about the Weta.... The superb design and attention to detail are obvious as soon as you take the cover off. We had the road trailer conversion of the excellent launching trailer that the Weta is actually delivered on. The dinghy, outriggers and two piece mast sits on a beautiful padded moulding that also carries the two piece carbon mast, all neatly bungied into place.

The outriggers are very light and one person can easily lift them off and slide them into the location points in the deck. A clever detail is that if you put two short lines on the trailer you can clip into the main jammers to hold the hull steady while you rig it, so simple, so clever.

At this stage you decide if you are going to add any modifications. This dinghy was not specifically designed for disabled people it is just a very very versatile delightful dinghy. Its stability and performance has led to…. shall we say ‘more mature’ and disabled people wanting to get in on the fun. The Weta’s design makes it very easy to fit seats and different forms of steering.

I used a DSA conversion that utilises a GRP car rally seat cleverly held in by a single strap and a clip on steering system that allows very accurate helming from the seat… and it is soooo comfortable. But the reality is that anyone with a little common sense could adapt the Weta to any disability.

Slot the carbon mast together, run the colour coded lines into place… pop it on its location pin and tie the forestay… well if I could balance a bit better even I could do it from my wheelchair.

Pin the very nice pop-up rudder assembly on and put it in the water, This is when you appreciate how light it is.

For an active wheelchair user, getting in and out is oh! so easy. Lift the very light outrigger onto the bank or pontoon and transfer onto the net and slide into the seat… front or rear of the net… your choice its easy either way.

Pop in the dagger board raise the main and you are ready to go.

If you are going to sail by yourself you run the main sheet under your seat round a block tied to the mast base and back to your lap and off you go.

Single sail performance in light winds is ok, but the thing you noticeable most is how well it turns, tacks and jibes. There will be the inevitable comparison with the Challenger trimaran's and in light airs and turns the Challenges I tested against could not keep up with the Weta until the wind got above 10 or 12 kts then the Challenger was faster but the Weta still easily out turned it. Obviously putting the jib on the Weta put it in a different class to the Challenger, but that’s the next part of the story.

Well not yet because you can take a crew, instructor or passenger on the Weta even with one sail and things start to happen faster…. Your crew can move about and balance the boat allowing it to go faster, but the most startling thing is how much faster you can turn with your crew literally flicking the boat round by hanging on to the back of your seat and leaning out the back to pivot the boat. Its not good sailing but its so much fun!

So we have added a sail handler, lets add another sail. The jib transforms the performance and it turns even better. This is simply the most agile dinghy I have sailed. Balancing the boat and the dagger board now become the tuning, there is no boom so no kicker but you can play with the cunningham so there is enough to do. In 15 to 20 kts the thing is usually travelling much to fast to worry about the finer points of tuning anyway. To be honest I was laughing and grinning too much to bother with an extra knt or two.

Well then we went in and put on the furling asymmetric. I have never used a furling type before but… I forgive its bad looks hanging there when furled, I forgive the trip rope for the sail handler, I forgive the non retractable bowsprit, I forgive it anything, I forgive it everything…. It is superb, it furls superbly and is a delight to use… I absolutely love it. Its out in a second… it seems to go away in half a second, it is just so simple and easy to operate.

All the controls are well laid out and light and easy to use. Some people might like one less turn on the blocks for the main as it is not at all heavy or difficult. The helm is very responsive indeed, it gets progressively heavier as speed increases as you would expect.

It points very well for a multihul but its noticeable if you forget to put the dagger board down and power up.

Sitting in the cockpit is reasonably dry up to around 15 knots, but it gets progressively 'weta' and becomes very, very 'weta' above 20 knots and spray is spectacular.

In light airs 3 to 8 knots the Weta is very nice to sail, very responsive to the rudder and trim. Your crew needs to move about to balance the boat keeping it as upright as possible with the bow just clear of the water. Use of the cunningham and dagger board are noticeable.

Medium winds 10 to 15 knots the boat is very agile indeed, the turns are exhilarating and you and your crew will be working harder to keep the boat level and travelling where you want to go as she responds to the slightest gust. You will need to look ahead for gusts and try and anticipate them. With a little more wind she seems to point better and certainly accelerates well.

Wind speeds of 20 to 30 knots are just stunning especially if its gusty, the acceleration is really something. We pushed very hard and found the Weta very well behaved. If you over power she puts a hull deep into the water and the noise and spray from the out rigger arm warns you that you are slowing down. Sitting on the centre line, when you dig in you cannot see through the spray so you may as well let off or turn.

We popped the asymmetric a few times and felt like we were water skiing, I think were pushing the limit on a number of occasions but the Weta seems to give ample warning of you doing something silly. I think you will need to do something deliberate to tip or pitch it, I did not feel uncomfortable at any time in this real thrill ride.

We had a little race with a Hobie 16 in 20 to 25 knot gusts (hard work on the Hobie) which could just out pace us even with our spinnaker up but in the turns and getting away from the mark the Weta was significantly quicker.

I would not recommend using sheet jammers on the main or asymmetric above 15 knots and you should take care not to tangle the main sheet. Turning up or dumping the sails stops the boat very quickly.

Versatile, agile, easy to rig and sail, fast and very comfortable is how I would sum up the Weta. If you study the pictures you can see the wake on the turns. It really is very good at it.

This is the most genuine all rounder I have ever sailed. In the space of three hours, four youngsters having the time of their life with just the main, then some spinnaker training for a 69 year old then me, old disabled guy teaching a teenager the basics.

Bad points…. Cant get it back if you lend it to anyone!

Would I sail one today if offered the chance?.............. I have one and I love it.