Donate your boat. Benefit sailors with disabilities.

The Disabled Sailing Association (DSA) was formed in Vancouver in 1989 by a group of people with disabilities, led by Sam Sullivan, a relatively recent quadriplegic.

To cut a long story short, BC’s Rick Hansen had been given a specially adapted sailboat at Expo ’86 to honour his Man in Motion world tour. This boat attracted the interest of a group of people with disabilities who wanted to have a go at sailing. Staff at Jericho Sailing Centre gave their blessing to the venture, although others weren’t so sure.

Beforehand, many people thought it would not be possible. The Coast Guard decided they should be on standby for the first sail, just in case. . . although they were not required. The group of pioneers proved the doubters wrong, showing the entire nation – and the world – that people with significant disabilities can sail independently as well as anyone else.

Rick Hansen declined the group’s offer to buy the boat, instead offering to donate it to on the condition that Sam formed a group that could benefit all people with disabilities.

That first year, 22 sailing sessions were logged on the waters of English Bay. It was the first adaptive sailing program in Canada.

The group grew at a spectacular rate, inspiring similar clubs across the country. Success bred technical innovation, and by 1993 mouth-operated sip ‘n’ puff technology was being added to sailboats so that people with no arm movement could sail. In 1995 DSA brought in yacht designer Don Martin to produce an adaptive sailing boat with a racing pedigree – the Martin 16 was born.

DSA is still based at Jericho, where it currently operates a fleet of eight Martin 16 sloops. This fleet annually logs more than 1,000 sails in a season, including many by children.

If you decide to donate your boat to DSA, you will be allowing people with disabilities to take part in a life-changing activity.