For 43-year-old Dennis Young, living with Left Hemiparesis can have its challenges.
“I am paralysed down the left-hand side of my body; it affects my walk, I can’t run as fast, I can’t stretch my left arm out, and I haven’t got as good a grip on that side either.”
But that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his passion for sailing and giving back to other sailors with disabilities by volunteering at Sailability Tauranga.
Dennis joined Sailability Tauranga when it was first established back in 2017 after hearing about the charity from a friend.
“I had done a bit of sailing at Sea Scouts and school sailing, so I thought I would give it a go. I started out sailing in the Hansa boat with an experienced sailing skipper and then progressed to sailing by myself.
“Now I attend regattas and have been to many all over the country, including competing in the Hansa National Champs. I really enjoy the challenge, and you’re racing against able-bodied people at these competitions as well.”
While he has progressed in his sailing, he is also using his knowledge and skills to help other sailors feel the freedom and exhilaration of being out on the water.
“When I started sailing, I ended up staying after and doing bits and pieces, whatever I could help out with. Then they said I could become an official volunteer, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
“I enjoy volunteering and get so much out of it. I do all sorts of things. I help out on the Patrol Boats, towing the Hansas in and out to the open water. As a dockhand, I tie up the boats to the dock, help people hop in and off the boats, and I also do a lot of the hoisting of people from wheelchairs into the boat with a special hoist we have.
“I’ve even progressed to teaching now. We had a training day a couple of months ago, and I did two of the courses – teaching other volunteers how to rig the boats and doing a hoisting demonstration.”
Dennis also volunteers his time as the Sailor Representative on the Operations Committee for Sailability Tauranga, meeting once a month to discuss improvements, safety and boat repairs.
He says sailing and volunteering is a pretty big part of his life, one that he gets a lot out of.
“One week I was down here five or six days, as there were heaps of things on like a regatta and meetings. I have sailed 90 times as a sailor, and I’ve volunteered at 75 sailing days.
“Sailing helps with my coordination and strength, making me use some things that I don’t usually use. And I’ve always loved being out on and around the water. I am a bit of a wildlife fan, so I’ll be checking out the wildlife when I’m sailing – I’ve had sharks as big as the boat jump in front of me, I check out the birds, and we have even seen orcas one time.
“But it’s not just being out on the water. I enjoy catching up with everybody here, too – after coming for a while, I’ve gotten to know quite a few people. And when I’m volunteering, there’s nothing better than when the sailors come back with the biggest smiles on their faces.”
Alistair Eagleson, Sailability Tauranga Chairman, says volunteers like Dennis are key to their work.
“We all feel so proud to see Dennis’ progress with Sailability Tauranga. He is an outstanding volunteer, regularly contributing in various roles.
“Volunteers are vital for our organisation as we continue to grow. Sailing days require at least 20 volunteers. A group of seven sailors, who also race like Dennis, and each having some disability, give back by regularly volunteering.
“Volunteering with Sailability Tauranga is an enjoyable and rewarding activity for those interested in working with people with some form of a disability.”
Alistair says the charity provides opportunities for people in the community who have a disability to regularly have fun and adventures, enjoying time out on our harbour.
“What a difference this can make to someone’s life, because for many of our sailors, sailing with Sailability Tauranga is their first boating experience.
“We are guided by the sailors giving us some direction whether they like having time out on the water just having sailing experiences, or if they have other goals they are encouraged to become involved in sailing the boat while learning to sail and maybe learning to race.
“Sailing experiences build self-confidence and a sense of pride in achievements, sometimes sailing with an experienced sailing skipper or extending to learning to sail independently or even learning to race.
“Sailors want to sail regularly if it’s possible. On sailing days, we can offer a sail for up to 40 sailors in summer and 30 sailors in winter. Sailing day bookings are usually oversubscribed, but we are motivated to increase the opportunities to sail by promoting Sailability Tauranga activities through organisations in the community.”
With Sailability Tauranga’s growth, it was in need of a new patrol boat – a vital piece of equipment that ensures the safety of sailors and volunteers is not compromised.
In April 2021, TECT approved $14,000 in funding towards the charity’s new rigid inflatable boat (RIB).
Alistair says suitable RIBs are required for towing the Hansa yachts to and from the marina as well as monitoring the Hansas in the sailing area.
“Conditions for sailing on Tauranga Harbour can be changeable and challenging with strong tides and wind conditions that can change quickly.
“The new RIB will be the largest Sailability Tauranga RIB with the capability of coping comfortably in a range of conditions, especially those in the higher wind range.
With TECT supporting Sailability Tauranga since 2018 with funding towards yachts and patrol boats, Alistair says they are greatly appreciative.
“Obtaining funding for any voluntary organisation can be time-consuming, and the cost of the purchase of yachts and patrol boats is significant.
“The consistent support TECT has provided for Sailability Tauranga has been outstanding, allowing volunteers to focus on extending the sailing opportunities we can provide for people living in our community with some form of disability.
“TECT’s ongoing support is an endorsement of the opportunities we offer anyone in our community living with a disability. We feel that with TECT’s support, we are making a difference by providing opportunities for the disabled population of Western Bay of Plenty to sail in safety, experiencing adventure and freedom.”
To learn more about Sailability Tauranga, visit https://www.sporty.co.nz/sailabilitytauranga.