In November 1995, a meeting was held at Royal Motor Yacht Club by Kay Cottee AO, Phil Vardy, and representatives of AYF to canvass interest in forming a group to get people with disabilities onto the water. Interest was shown from local clubs and a group of volunteers agreed to make their time available.
Within 3 months, three 2.3 Access dinghies had been acquired by donations from friends, relatives and grants through the President Lynn Phillips. These boats were stored at BYRA and sailed fortnightly. It became evident that we needed a safety boat, and this was loaned to us by Pittwater High School.
Another need arose for a boat with electric servo motors to enable the more disabled people to sail; this was donated by Sydney Sea Pilots thanks to BYRA club member James Barker Simson.
We soon found we had more people to accommodate so Rowland Reserve at Bayview was decided upon. At the same time it became obvious that some form of lifting device was necessary as the volunteers were getting wet to their armpits managing boats and people.
Pittwater Council came to our assistance. They made us a davit to lift our sailors in and out of the boats. Another benefactor Joe Habib undertook to make us a trailer that could be used to store our boats and travel to competitions. We also raised money to purchase a rubber duck and outboard motor.
In the mean time we acquired another two boats through a grant from the State Government for the of children, as we continue to have regular holiday program sailing with DOCS Interchange and other groups.
In 1999 Lindsay and Maria Dalmon purchased a 303 `Wee Two` and sailed regularly as members of BYRA on Sundays.
The following is a recent summary from Lindsay and Maria on how they have enjoyed their ‘Freedom on the Water’ via Access Dinghies like many others of our members:-
“As Sailability celebrates its 20th birthday Maria and I look back and wonder where the hell have those years gone – that’s a very big chunk of our lives
But those 20 years with Sailability have left us with some wonderful memories, a few of which we’d like to share here, with you.
Such as our first sail; it was at a “come and try” day on Narrabeen Lake. After a short sail with Chris Mitchell, and a little solo sail, we were both hooked. Soon after this we joined the newly formed Sailability Pittwater.
Narrabeen Lake had proved to be too shallow for regular sailing. So, after a search for a suitable venue, Sailability Pittwater took up permanent “residence” at Rowland Reserve, Bayview.
Rowland Reserve had the one major requirement needed, at that time, to launch disabled sailors on their sailing experience in an Access 2.3 - that was quiet water with a nice sandy beach. I wonder how many sailors and, more importantly, volunteers remember sailing “off the beach”. Off the beach sailing meant that the volunteers had to help (usually by lifting) the sailors into the boats on the water’s edge and then, with the centre board raised to its highest position, walk the boats out until the water was deep enough. They then had to pull the “short” pin out and manually lower the centreboard as gently as possible. On the boat’s return the process was reversed. The volunteers would wade out into deep water, catch the boat as it came in, lean into the boat and pull the centre board up manually (no mean feat). They then walked the boat to shore and helped the sailors out. This meant that, on sailing days, volunteers could look forward to spending much of their time in water up to their chest – no C-cranes etcetera in those days - and, I guess, no OH&S.
Some of our fondest memories are of the numerous ‘Nationals’ in which we competed in Canberra, firstly on Lake Burley Griffin and later on Lake Tuggeranong. One year on Lake Tuggeranong, Sailability broke the world record for having the most sailing boats of the same class on the water at any one time. What a great sight that was. I think there were well over 100 access dinghies, with their colourful sails, drifting on mirror-like water.
High on our list of Canberra memories is the time we were all invited to morning tea by Sir William Dean and his wife at Government House. Sir William had presented the National trophies on a number of occasions and had become like a friend to all of us.
Our Sailability memories also span the number of years we sailed as part of the BYRA racing fleet, under the Sailability banner. One such memory is of the day we were joined by Barry Maypiece, an experienced sailor from Sailability New England, in an Access 2.3. During the race Barry was hit by a sudden gust which laid his boat flat, and Oops!, he had forgotten to put the locking-pin in the centreboard - and -the centreboard slipped straight out and sunk.
So, if anyone needs a barnacle-encrusted 2.3 centreboard, there’s one for the taking at the bottom of Pittwater. I’m sure Allan Jones could give you the approx. Co-ordinates if you want to mount a search for it.
We have been very fortunate in being able to do a number of overseas trips with Sailability, and these also hold special memories for us. These range from being swept onto a rocky breakwater by strong currents in Osaka harbor, to sitting becalmed for hours on Lake Geneva, waiting for a wind that “is coming soon” but that didn’t come at all.
Happy 20th Birthday Sailability NSW. Yes, 20 years is a big chunk out of our lives. But, as you see, it has left us with great memories.”
In November 2001 several benefactors, Sydney Wall Chasing, T.A.Taylor & Son and the Quota Club donated another 303 `Jenny` and this was sailed on a regular basis by the two Johns - Harvey and Gordon.
Early in 2002, our Patron John Brogden organised an evening at which a raffle was held and the generosity of the patrons present enabled us to purchase a third 303, aptly named `Brogden Bite`. The State Governor Marie Bashir AC kindly attended the launching in March 2002.
Again in 2004 John Brogden organised a major fundraiser from which we purchased 2 new Access ‘Liberty’ electric performance sailboats with trailer, which were launched by Marie Bashir AC in March 2005. These are sailed from the hardstand at RPAYC, together with a 3rd Liberty and one privately owned boat, making a competitive fleet on Pittwater for experienced sailors with disabilities.
At this time Sailability Pittwater had five 2.3 Access Dinghies doubles and one 2.3 Access Dinghy with servo assisted electric motors, three 303 Access dinghies, 3 Access Liberties, 2 with electrics, a rubber duck with 4hp outboard and the Pittwater Punt (on loan from Pittwater High School) with an 8hp outboard motor. The group with annual fees, sailing fees and fund raising, meets annual insurance costs.
Pittwater Council has continued to support us in the building of seats, slabs and paths to accommodate wheelchairs and with Pittwater High School Building and Construction group a covered picnic area at Rowland Reserve.
In 2005 we purchased a “site caravan”, which has been converted for boat & equipment storage in the Pittwater Council Compound at Rowland Reserve.
Also we received the kind donation of a new Rubber ‘Duckie’ from Sydney Powerboat Centre, and a 4 hp outboard from Enterprise Marine. The boat was named the JL Gordon to respect our long serving coach and rescue boat operator.
Our Commodore Allan Jones was awarded the OAM in 2006 for his services to Sailability, not only at our branch, but also at state, national and international levels. As well as taking our disabled sailors to international events, he has been instrumental in establishing Sailability in India.
In April 2006 we celebrated 10 years of operation and honoured 5 volunteer members, who have been heavily involved for all that time. They are Alan and Jan Jones, John Gordon, Ralph Newman and Vince Formosa. Sadly Jan Jones passed away on the day of our 10 year dinner and she has been missed by us all.
In December 2006 we purchased 2 new Access Breeze dinghies to replace the 2.3s, this being funded by a donation from the Primary Club and Pittwater RSL. Since then we have relocated our 3 x 303s from BYRA and purchased an additional 303 which we have named “Janice”, in memory of Janice Jones, who did so much for Sailability at all levels.
In 2007 a Christian City Church group raised some $3,000 which we used to purchase a trailer for our 303s, which is used every sailing day to store and transport our 303s. Also in this year Pittwater Council built a larger pontoon in deeper water and we purchased a C Crane, which is much easier for winching people and centreboards in and out.
In July 2009 a new storage shed was erected at Rowland Reserve. The shed was opened by sailor Maria Dalmon and Patron of Sailability Pittwater Mr. John Brogden. This shed houses our boat storage, training facility and administration area. Also in 2009, Pittwater Council erected a large shelter at Rowland Reserve which has made conditions much more pleasant for both sailors and volunteers, with excellent shade and protection from the weather.
The World Masters Games held in Sydney in 2009 was keenly contested by three of our members, Helen Cregan, Bob Hamilton and Malcolm Murray with creditable results.
In April 2011 we celebrated 15 years of operations with a dinner at the Pittwater Aquatic Club. This was well attended by members past and present, and on the night, Allan Jones was made a LIFE Member of Sailability Pittwater, the presentation being made by our Patron Mr. John Brogden.
2012 - Pittwater volunteers made a major contribution to the Access World Championships held at Middle Harbour Yacht Club, where Greg Hyde, Alyse, Lindsay & Maria Dalmon all did us proud in very difficult conditions.
2013 - This year, with funding from Pittwater RSL we were able to purchase a new Safety Boat and Motor and an electric 2.3, “Maria” overhauled by Malcolm Murray and set up so that it can be sailed using either left or right hand controls.
Sadly another founding member, Vince Formosa, passed away after a long battle with cancer, and we miss his cheerful nature teaching us how to interact with clients with disabilities.
2014 - Crystal Bay Sailability formed as the second Sailability branch in Pittwater and Sailability Pittwater ceded three Liberty boats together with support boats and equipment to help in its formation. Many of our volunteers work with this new branch as well.
2015 - With successive funding from Club Grants and a donation from St George Foundation, we have been able to purchase 2 new 303’s, and so our long serving 303s ‘Jenny’ and ‘Brogden Bite’ go on to continue their life at the new branch, of Coomba Park.
Alyse Saxby - Another story of “Freedom on the Water”
Alyse originally came to Sailability as part of the Pittwater High School special class group. She showed great potential as a sailor and after considerable coaching by Bob Hamilton entered State and National Championships. She was eventually selected to take part in the 2007 Special Olympics in Shanghai in which she won a silver medal.
2011 - Alyse Saxby and Bob Hamilton win GOLD at Special Olympics in Athens, a great achievement and testament to all the hard work Bob and Allan Jones and their supporters put in to her campaign.
2012 - Purchased a new 303 and named it “ALYSE” to honor the achievements of Bob and Alyse. This replaced “WEE TWO” which was originally owned by Lindsay & Maria
2015 – Now training at Crystal Bay again Alyse has taken GOLD at Special Olympics in LA with Melissa and has proved that she is a very accomplished sailor in a large variety of craft.
Socially, Sailability Pittwater hold an end of sailing season evening for volunteers which recently has been in the form of a “Pizza” night held at the Pittwater R.S.L.Club. A Christmas Party is also held at the Pittwater Aquatic Club. Both events are well attended by Branch Members.