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Award-Winning 'Watersports Inclusion Games' at Kinsale Yacht Club

27th August 2019
Enable Ireland participants Callum O'Mahony from Douglas with volunteers taking part on board the Wheelyboat at the Watersports Inclusion Games 2019 Enable Ireland participants Callum O'Mahony from Douglas with volunteers taking part on board the Wheelyboat at the Watersports Inclusion Games 2019 Credit: Irish Sailing/David Branigan

Over 250 people with physical, sensory, intellectual and learning disabilities took part each day in a “splashingly” good weekend at the third annual Watersports Inclusion Games in Kinsale writes Treasa Cox

This year’s participants tried out more sports than ever before, with an expanded range including sailing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle-boarding, rowing, surfing, water skiing and powerboating all on offer. The Games took place at Kinsale Yacht Club in Co Cork on 24th-25th August.

The Watersports Inclusion Games are an award-winning event organised by Irish Sailing with partners from across the watersports sector, that enable people of all abilities from the physical, sensory, intellectual and learning spectrums to take to the water to participate in a wide range of water activities.

First-time participant Callum O’Mahony from Douglas, Cork, came to the Games with Enable Ireland. He went on a powerboat ride and said “it was great – we went so fast. I definitely want to come back again next time”.

One parent commented: “our daughter has autism. Today we watched her attempt kayaking, paddle boarding, and even skipper a yacht. The atmosphere was beyond inclusive, it restored our faith in humanity”.

Participants ranged in age from pre-teens to seniors and came from across the country. Some are repeat attendees, and some were first timers. The activities were tailored to each participant’s level and ability – so no two experiences were the same.

There were wheelchairs on Stand-Up Paddle Boards, visually impaired participants waterskiing in Kinsale Harbour, thrilling fast-boat rides, and all sorts of sailing.
Organiser Johanne Murphy said: “Irish Sailing promotes sailing as a ‘sport for all, a sport for life’. We believe in inclusion and the elimination of barriers to accessing sport, so that sailing and other watersports can be more readily available to the one in seven (13.5%*) of people in Ireland who have a disability.” (*2016 Census)

The organisers of the Games wanted to let people of all abilities know that there are multiple watersports available to them, and to encourage more people from all backgrounds to get involved and out on the water regardless of ability. They aim to highlight that any barriers faced by people with disabilities can be eliminated.

There are social, health and wellness benefits associated with sailing and all watersports. These include improved muscle strength and endurance, improved cardiovascular fitness and increased agility, enhanced spatial awareness, greater mental wellness through the balancing of serotonin levels and the lowering of stress levels, improved concentration and the forging of positive relationships.

Harry Hermon, CEO of Irish Sailing, added: “This is the third year of the Watersports Inclusion Games and they’re successful because of the many different strands that come together behind a single purpose, to get everyone afloat enjoying and benefitting from watersports. There are at least 11 different organisations involved in the Games – and at least 200 volunteers. Together we want to raise the profile of the Games so that everyone around the country becomes aware that sailing and other watersports are accessible to them, no matter what their circumstances”.

Treasa Cox

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Treasa Cox

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Treasa Cox is Head of Communications at Irish Sailing

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Irish Sailing

The Irish Sailing Association, also known as Irish Sailing, is the national governing body for sailing, powerboating and windsurfing in Ireland.

Founded in 1945 as the Irish Dinghy Racing Association, it became the Irish Yachting Association in 1964 and the Irish Sailing Association in 1992.

Irish Sailing is a Member National Authority (MNA) of World Sailing and a member of the Olympic Federation of Ireland.

The Association is governed by a volunteer board, elected by the member clubs. Policy Groups provide the link with members and stakeholders while advising the Board on specialist areas. There is a professional administration and performance staff, based at the headquarters in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

Core functions include the regulation of sailing education, administering racing and selection of Irish sailors for international competition. It is the body recognised by the Olympic Federation of Ireland for nominating Irish qualified sailors to be considered for selection to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games. Irish sailors have medalled twice at the Olympics – David Wilkins and Jamie Wikinson at the 1980 games, and Annalise Murphy at the 2016 games.

The Association, through its network of clubs and centres, offers curriculum-based training in the various sailing, windsurfing and powerboating disciplines. Irish Sailing qualifications are recognised by Irish and European Authorities. Most prominent of these are the Yachtmaster and the International Certificate of Competency.

It runs the annual All-Ireland Championships (formerly the Helmsman’s Championship) for senior and junior sailors.

The Association has been led by leading lights in the sailing and business communities. These include Douglas Heard, Clayton Love Junior, John Burke and Robert Dix.

Close to 100 sailors have represented Ireland at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Membership of Irish Sailing is either by direct application or through membership of an affiliated organisation. The annual membership fee ranges from €75 for families, down to €20 for Seniors and Juniors.

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