The disAbled sailOR

Feb 02, 2011
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Find something you love to do and never stop.  Easier said than done if you love to sail, but find you need assistance getting in and out of the water. Since 1995, with sponsorship from the Eugene Yacht Club, the World Wheelchair Sports disAbled sailOR program has been providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity to get out of their chairs and onto the deck of a sailboat.

Kevin Hansen, an avid sailor since childhood, broke his neck at 22 skiing. Kevin, now 58, is the executive director of World Wheel Chair Sports. He loves to sail and spoke recently about the disAbled sailOR program with Randi Bjornstad of the Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon (January 17, 2011). Kevin, a quadriplegic, said he can’t overstate the importance of giving individuals with disabilities a chance to glide through the water in a sailboat, or even sail it themselves. “It’s a beautiful thing — when you’re sailing, your disability, your chair, and your worries stay on land,” he said. “It’s amazing to hear the sounds, see the wildlife, be part of the ambience. For the people who can actually help sail the boat, it’s an even more amazing experience.”

Many of the participants in the disAbled sailOR program are those challenged from birth, or from accidents later in life. Others are the elderly whose mobility tends to decrease with age or with certain medical conditions, Hansen said.

World Wheelchair Sports, founded in 1990, promotes physical fitness, independence and opportunities for athletic competition among people with disabilities. Programs include track and field, rugby, basketball, tennis, hand-cycling, water sports and skiing. In 1999, World Wheelchair Sports received a grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust to purchase and outfit a boat that could be adapted for use by wheelchair users. Soon after confirmation of the grant, the organization selected Quadzilla, a 1972 Santana 525 that has a deck the right height for wheelchair transfers. By adding roller furling sails, an electronic joystick and four-point harnesses, Quadzilla can be sailed independently by people with disabilities and carries up to eight individuals comfortably.

You can learn more about World Wheelchair Sports and the disAbled sailOR program on their website, To read the entire article with Kevin Hansen visit

Author: Cary Wing