Belfast Lough Sailability
Promoting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Sailing is one of the few sports in which able-bodied sailors and sailors with disabilities can participate on equal terms.
Belfast Lough Sailability (BLS) encourages and supports individuals (and their families) with a wide diversity of disabilities and learning difficulties and those disadvantaged by circumstance to enjoy the freedom of the open water and master the art of sailing and other water sports.
Each year BLS facilitates over 2000 experiences afloat for approx. 400 people with a disability and an additional 1500 experiences for family members.
This is done through a variety of open ‘turn up and sail’ sessions, training programmes for competitive participants along with on-water experiences offered to other disability groups.
Freedom, Friendship & Opportunity
Whether living with a physical, cognitive or learning disability the benefits of sailing are immense.
Some sailors value the complete sensory experience: the noise of the sails filling with wind; the shimmering reflection of light on the water; the feel of the sea spray and the pitch and roll of the boat all of which can build confidence and stimulate communication.
Others delight in the calming and soothing effects of being one with nature admiring the seabirds and seals in the beautiful Belfast Lough.
Sailing is the most inclusive sport…once you’re in a boat, you’re just another sailor
Learning the Ropes
Established 20 years sgo, Belfast Lough Sailability is an RYA Accredited Sailability Centre and boasts a fleet of 17 power/sail boats and 4 kayaks.
The team can accomodate the interests of all members whether that is to ride the waves in a power boat or develop their sailing skills. BLS provides quality assured training for sailors, powerboat drivers, First Aid and maritime radio communications.
Above all, sailing promotes learning, friendships and the opportunity to build independence.
A Personal Adventure
Thomas was first introduced to sailing with BLS as part of The Lighthouse Trust summer schemes.
Year on year he built up his confidence and competence on the water until, looking for the ultimate challenge, he participated in an intensive accredited training programme with BLS as part of his Gaisce Gold President’s Award. His steadfast commitment to the programme included a daily exercise & stretching programme to maintain balance and posture in a boat for several hours a day, learning to read weather and tidal forecasts, safety on board as well as the practical aspects of sailing as part of a team.
Thomas’ incredible achievements are now proving an inspiration to others.
All Hands on Deck
With no paid staff, volunteers are the heartbeat of Belfast Lough Sailaibility.
BLS relies on the massive voluntary commitment of over 100 individuals who give their time to support sailors in getting on the water. These include seasoned sailors and landlubbers – there is a role for everyone, on or off the water.