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way by a team of 60 volunteers who drive safety boats, organise training courses, arrange fundraising events and help get users in and out of boats. Neil says they need a lot of helpers as it can take five or six people to get one person into a boat using a hoist. As well as manpower the club needs a lot of cash to keep afloat seeing as one quayside hoist can cost up to £7,000, and Hansa dinghies range from £2,000 to £6,000. They have a hard working fundraising team who put on a range of activities throughout the year such as raffles and talks. They are also given donations from individuals and companies, grants from trusts and some legacies left in people’s wills. Neil says people are very generous: “I think many see this as a worthwhile charity and are very kind in their support. We don’t receive any government funding and all our operations and governance is done by volunteers with no paid staff.” Sailing is in the blood for Neil


as his grandfather was part of a square-rigger team which went around Cape Horn in 1902 and he was a merchant seaman during the First World War. Neil says his father introduced him to sailing when he was very young; “I learnt to sail at his feet really. At the age of eight I was put in a single dinghy and pulled along at the back of our family boat! After a few years it was sold and we got a little catamaran.” Neil went on to experience many other modes of transport when he joined the RAF. He was a helicopter pilot instructor based at RAF North Holt and would frequently convey senior generals, cabinet ministers and members of the Royal Family. He once made a special journey flying through the clouds above the UK answering questions from a curious Prince William about the merits of joining the RAF. Neil moved around a lot with his job and lived in Hampshire, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany. He says throughout his military career he made sure he got lots of water experience. “I achieved a coastal skipper qualification which means I can operate within sight of land. I spent a few weeks going off on the Challenge 67 boats which are steel- hulled yachts built for racing ‘the wrong way’ around the world, against the wind. I didn’t go all the way round, but I did a stint as watch leader from Barcelona to Malta.” After four decades in the RAF Neil went on to


become a commercial helicopter pilot for 10 years. “I worked for a property company and would fly prospective-buyers to see different sites around the UK and abroad. It wasn’t all business; I would take people down to Castle Hill at Bideford for shooting trips and sometimes took the bosses to Greece. I was a glorified taxi really but it was good fun!” He says of all the VIPs he’s had ‘in the back of his cab’, the biggest coup for


him was flying the pop band One Direction as it got him a large bunch of brownie points with his daughter! Neil is due to serve in the post of Dart Sailability


chairman for two years and in that time he hopes to see the membership grow. “I’d like to get more young people involved and, if possible, I’d like to widen participation. At the moment the charity mainly helps people with physical disabilities, but I think it would be great if we could include people battling mental health issues. Getting out on the water can improve general wellbeing, reduce stress and anxiety, help build resil- ience and increase confidence.” When Neil isn’t on a boat of


some kind you can find him either walking his beautiful red setter Lilly or standing at the roadside cheering on Nici as she pounds the streets in her trainers. “She loves running and is always entering races. She has done the London Marathon a few times now. I asked what she wanted for her birthday


this year and she said she wants to run the Budapest Marathon! So that’s where we’re headed in October.” Neil prefers to chill out by listening to 60s rock ’n’ roll with a gin and tonic in hand! Dart Sailability operates on Tuesdays and Saturdays from May to September. If you’d like to join or become a volunteer go to www.dartsailability.org


Provides facilities for people with any disability to go afloat on the River Dart


Join us as a Disabled sailor or Volunteer supporter on or off the water.


No previous experience needed and the opportunity to gain RYA Sailing and Powerboat qualifications.


SDART AILABILITY eedom


www.dartsailability.org Registered Charity 1155753


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Follow the website below to find out more about us.


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