Elana has Spina Bifida, and is in Year 11 at Mosman High. She likes sailing in heavier seas because calm days are “boring”!
She says “I enjoy being a part of Sailability because sailing gives me a chance to get out on the water and experience something that a lot of my able bodied friends are doing and enjoying. I love the feeling of freedom I get when I’m out on the water because the expanse just seems endless and it is almost as if you can go anywhere and sail forever. Being on the water on a sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky and sparkling blue water is one of the closest things to paradise on earth.”
Elana also told us a little secret “it gets me away from homework and the computer”. Aha!
Reality is better than the dream
Since joining Sailability Manly late 2004 I have really enjoyed all my sails with various partners, but it is like so many pursuits in your life as a disabled person, somebody else has some input.
During our last months of the Sailing season I expressed the desire to sail solo. I think some of the volunteer sailors thought I was crazy as I am legally blind but never the less it was an ambition of mine and I was greatly encouraged by Eli who investigated the possibility. Unfortunately while my dream was growing I broke my right arm which put my ambilition on the back burner for a while.
But wait for it. July 9, 2005, was to be my judgement day. It started out like any other sailing day. While still at home Bob and I listened to the weather forcast as it was a bit overcast. According to the radio weather reports we were in for some showers but Bob looked up the Bureau of Meterology website and said that the radar was showing no clouds, so gathering up our belongings off we went to Manly. It was clear, clean blue skies without a cloud in sight and a slight breeze blowing down at MYC. We did all the usual preparation for the day’s sailing. And then Eli said the magic words “You’re sailing solo in “Clea” and Bob and Malcolm will be in the rescue boat which will tow you over to the other side of the Cove”. While being towed over I started having doubts, thinking maybe I didn’t know what was best but then the imp inside said “oh well, what really can go wrong? I might get a bit wet, I might capsize the boat, I might tear a sail but I do know that these boats can fill up with an awful lot of water and not sink so ………..”
When we got to the other side Malcolm gave me instructions re the mainsail and the rudder and then away I went like a duck getting its first swimming lesson on a pond. I really can’t express the exhilaration and sheer joy I felt being able to control this boat all by myself. In some ways it was scary as I didn’t have anyone else to fall back on but Malcolm had told me that if I felt out of control just to let out the sheet so that is what I did and guess what, it really works. I forgot about the boys following me in the rescue boat so that I didn’t come to grief on rocks or other boat. It was only when Malcom called out to come about that I realise they were there like my guardian angels. I kept “looking” at the sails so that I could feel if they were flapping or not. With the sun on my face and I hope a huge smile on my face my experiences in this life had been added to.
The time passed so quickly that it only seemed like a few minutes when I was hailed that we were going back. I think that the boys were going to let me sail across the ferry lane to come home but then thought better of it and towed me back. Eli was on the pontoon to greet me and ask if it was everything that I wanted it to be. “Yes it is fabulous and words really cannot convey the feelings that surge through you!”
“Freedom on the Water” is the Sailability motto and sailing solo definitely put those words into reality for me. I can’t wait until I do it again and again. It sounds like I have an addiction and you know what, you are right!
Thank you to Bob and Malcolm for being my guardian angels and a very big thank you to Eli for making it possible and encouraging me to go for it.
Over the last 53 years I have been asked many times, “how do you cope with having cerebral palsy?
My reply is, “So what? I was born with it. I do not know another way of life and it is better to accept the life I have, than to dwell on what could have been”.
My life started out on pretty rocky ground. Nobody, not even my parent’s, held much hope when told my prognosis would probably be about ten years.
But survive I did…
I learnt to speak at age eight. Having very limited control over my limbs, I wear a ‘headpointer’ to operate a computer and for mobility I use an electric wheelchair.
But what I do have, that is not affected, is my intelligence and I endeavour to make the most of it. I have been constantly told that with the degree of disability I have, “you shouldn’t do this, or you cannot possibly do that”. But, these words have never, and will never, be in my vocabulary.
The Spastic Centre employs me; my current position is as a desktop publisher. Also, a motivational speaker and I collaborate regularly with Government bodies on accessibility issues.
I live on the Northern Beaches in Sydney, in a supportive accommodation hostel, where I share a room with two cats and a dog. During the week I work, but come the weekends, I enjoy a very social life.
Every second Saturday I am a solo sailor at Manly with Sailability. Once I entered the two-day National Championships held in Canberra. The Governor General of Australia, awarded me the Silver Medal!
Other accomplishments have included being a 2000 Olympic and Paralympics torchbearer, international typewriter artist, tandem skydiver and hot air balloonist. I was the first person with a severe disability to do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.
I hope to continue with Sailability Manly for many years to come, enjoying the fun and friendships that I have encountered along the way, not only with sailors with disabilities, but also with the numerous volunteers. Without their support and encouragement I would be sitting on land, in my wheelchair thinking about what I would like to be doing, rather than participating and knowing what I can do.
Imagine how you’d feel if your very successful and comfortable life was suddenly devastated by a debilitating illness leaving you largely dependent on others for your everyday needs?
That’s exactly what happened to well known local sailing identity, Clontarf resident Greg Hyde.
Photograph is a closeup of Greg Hyde sailing
Greg has been the Windsurfing World Champion, earned a plaque in Manly West Esplanade’s walk of Olympians representing his country in Los Angeles in 1984, was the National 16ft skiff champion, and joint helm of Manly Yacht Club’s winning entry “Cuckoo’s Nest” in the storm ravaged 1993 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Thirteen years ago, Greg was cut down at the height of his sailing prowess by a rare and usually fatal form of encephalitis, subsequently he suffered epilepsy, and in 2008 had a stroke which resulted in partial right-sided paralysis, short-term memory loss, and speech difficulties.
Greg has shown tremendous courage overcoming his frustration and coming to terms with his current situation, and rather than adopt a” victim” mentality, has chosen to concentrate on becoming the best he can possibly be with what he’s got, and in the process be an inspirational role model for others with disabilities.
Recently introduced to Sailability, a volunteer organisation that gives people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to experience “Freedom on the water,” Greg has shown that mercifully he’s lost none of his natural ability in the water sport he loves.
Through Sailablity Greg has been introduced to sailing the single seat 2.4m class of dinghy, an exhilarating and challenging experience for most able-bodied sailors!
Thrilled to be back at the helm of a lively craft, in April Greg attended a Paralympics training camp in Perth with 8 others trying for the place in the 2.4m dinghy class with the goal of representing Australia at sailing in the 2012 Paralympics games in London.
Greg has accomplished much in the last 6 months. Not only has he been selected for this elite squad, he has also obtained major sponsorship for a new 2.4m from Finland, courtesy of Windsurfer Australia, and much appreciated new sailing clothes from Gill (the 2.4m can be a very wet boat!)
Finding a sponsor for sails is now a top priority.
The new boat arrives in July, and will be kept with the Sailability NSW fleet of 2.4m on the hard stand at Crystal Bay, courtesy of the RPAYC.
A great deal of thought has gone into the configuration of the new boat with help from former windsurfer sparring partner and respected sailing coach Lachlan Gilbert.
“Although Greg’s lost none of his natural ability, he’s tremendously frustrated by his fluctuating physical and mental abilities and needs to work on his concentration and building stamina” explained Lachlan. “The new boat will be innovatively set up to take best advantage of what he CAN do,”
Physios and nutritionists have also been a great help with programs to build his technique, strength and fitness, both mental and physical for this challenging journey.
If Greg is to be successful, he will have to train on the water regularly, and this will need the committed help of a dedicated team of volunteers with some sailing or boat-handling experience.
Sailability NSW President Allan Jones assisted by Pittwater and Manly volunteers including on water sparring partner, Peter Whalan, are training those donating their time, in rigging, launching, sailing the 2.4m and operating the chase boat.
Many are retirees who find that being involved is not only teaching them new skills, but giving them a renewed sense of purpose and pride.
However, if Greg is to fulfill his Paralympics dream more recruits are needed in “Greg’s navy”!
Newport resident Barbara Kendall is Greg’s rock, and co-ordinates his sailing program.
“I’m so proud of my brother and we’re both touched and appreciative of the wonderful team of volunteers gathering around us” said Barbara Kendall.
The commitment is half a day once a week or whenever, starting at 9.30am at RPA on the Pittwater or Manly Yacht Club on Manly Cove.
Anyone who would like to find out more about helping Greg, by sponsoring his new sails or donating their time should call Barbara Kendall on 0414 227 691 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to find out more about volunteering for Sailability, or know someone who would benefit from experiencing “freedom on the water” call Pittwater: Allan Jones 9918 6539 or Manly: Eli Demeny: 9976 2747
I’ve used an electric wheelchair for about six years now. I’m quite tall so I’m never sitting at the same height as other people so just the thought of being in a boat with Sailability was a thrill even before I drove onto the wharf.
The weather was perfect. I can’t actually stand to transfer so a manual sling hoist took me from chair to boat easily.
I do sit a bit lopsided so was leaning into my lovely skipper Ray. Being ‘face to face’ instantly made it so much easier to click into conversation and the quiet harbour waters were ideal for my soft voice which dies a bit in everyday city living. I probably made Ray’s job, of dodging all of the other boats closer to the club, more difficult because I was making chit chat. My hands did stiffen into the ‘I’m-a-bit-scared’ position but I definitely relaxed when Ray explained that the boats are built in a way that makes them basically impossible to capsize. It was 100% relaxed awesome fun then! Lots of fun sharp turns, running my hand in the water and bouncing over waves left by the big ferries.
There were so many friendly volunteers that made my first day of sailing really lovely and effortless.
Christabel, who shares volunteering at North Head plant nursery, kindly suggested that I might like to try sailing with Sailability Manly where she is a member. I have never sailed before and was delighted to have the opportunity so close to hand in Manly. I duly presented myself dockside last Saturday morning (23rd March) and after being kitted up found myself out on the harbour with John Connor who during the course of our sail around Manly Cove, told me more about the wonderful work that Sailability is doing. As for the sailing, well to my novice eyes it was a beautiful morning with only a hint of a breeze. And so we meandered slowly across towards Fairlight, enjoying the dark green water, watching the arrival and departure of the ferry and a cormorant diving close by. A great experience and a thank you to all the volunteers on hand last Saturday.