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68


NEW CHAIRMAN OF DART SAILABILITY


Neil Stevens


“Disability isn’t a barrier to taking part.” That’s one of the key messages behind Dart Sailability, a charity which goes out of its way to get more than 800 people with disabilities out onto the water every year. Neil Stevens has just taken over as chairman. In the next two years the ex- RAF pilot hopes to raise lots of money for the group and get more people with mental health problems involved. Steph Woolvin went to meet him….


One Direction in the back of his helicop- ter! Now he’s retired from his air-borne career, he’s chosen the water as his new playground. He and his wife Nici moved to Dartmouth last autumn and the pair threw themselves into town life joining a handful of clubs in their first three months. Neil went straight to the yacht club and became one of their safety boat drivers, having gained the quali- fications needed earlier in his career. “I go out on a Tuesday evening helping the dinghy club. But I really wanted to get my teeth into a bigger project so when I found out about Dart Sailability I signed up straight away.” The group, which started in 1997,


A


few years ago Neil Stevens was a pilot flying through the skies with the likes of Prince Wil- liam and members of the teen pop sensation


“We provide


is part of a national scheme enabling people with disabilities to try sailing and regularly take part in water-based activities. The Dartmouth team have an impressive fleet of boats including spe- cially adapted vessels like the ‘Farries Flyer’ powerboat. This large grey land- ing craft can accommodate up to 12 people and with dual controls it means more-able sailors in wheelchairs can drive it. As it can pull right up onto a beach it’s the ideal boat to take people on jaunts up the river to spot wildlife before stopping off somewhere for a summer


opportunities for those who may have


thought it impossible to ever get onto the water.”


picnic or bbq. The club also has six Hansa dinghies, these have a heavy keel making them virtually impos- sible to capsize. They are used as training boats so peo- ple with disabilities can join courses to learn how to sail them solo. Wheelchair users can be hoisted into them using specialist machinery on the quayside at the club’s base at Noss Marina. Neil says Dart Sailability tries to help people reach their goals: “We provide opportu- nities for those who may have thought it impossible to ever get onto the water. When they’re travelling on the Dart with the waves lapping up and the wind in their hair it gives them a real thrill and many feel a new sense of tranquillity and freedom. We also provide courses for more serious sportsmen and women who want to learn to sail with courses delivered by our own qualified instruc- tors. Some of them go on to compete alongside able-bodied sailors.” Neil took over as chairman last month


(April 2019) and says it’s his job to stay on top of all the paperwork, making sure they keep their charitable status intact and remain on the right side of health


and safety laws. He will regularly attend board meetings and make sure the training officer has everything he needs in terms of equipment and up to date manuals and certificates. The club has 113 members who regular- ly attend events, courses and day trips helped along the


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