Sailing is a sport, or recreation that is declining in popularity due in part to its complexity, its perceived elite-ness, and the poor way it is promoted in a crowded marketplace. This is compounded by the entry level craft recommended and used by the peak global sailing bodies being pitched too high:
- Skills required to sail them are too high.
- Movement of bodyweight is necessary to prevent a capsize.
- The steering is by a back to front tiller which turns the boat in opposite direction to where you expect to go.
- This results in over complication which leads to capsize and dunking which scare away many more newcomers than it attracts.
Sailing bodies cannot see this as they have entrenched attitudes and are not innovating. There are also commercial interests who benefit from the status quo.
The solution can be extremely simple and lies in the adoption of a new breed of craft which conform to the principals of Universal Design (UD) – beginning at the entry level, and then encouraging more sophisticated UD craft as awareness and demand grows.
The greatest gift we can give people with a disability is not segregated (sailing) programs and facilities, but include them in everyday activities. By using craft of Universal Design, sailing could become the first sport to offer true inclusion. There is no need to run segregated disabled programs. This in itself will be something to boast about, and give Sailing a leading marketing edge, which will further enhance its profile and popularity.
The benefits of using boats of UD design are twofold, and profound. It will:
- Reverse the current decline in participation in Sailing
- Allow people with disabilities to simply join in everyday sailing activities.