The thrill of big boat racing was sampled by a group of disabled sailors on Saturday aboard the maxi yacht Skandia Wild Thing

The thrill of big boat racing was sampled by a group of disabled sailors on Saturday when Skandia and RYA Sailability joined forces to host a day on the Solent in the maxi yacht Skandia Wild Thing.

Starting out at the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, two groups of sailors of mixed disabilities, ranging from people with impaired hearing to physical disabilities, were given a taste of how it feels to carve through the water on a 30m racing yacht.

Owned by Australian yachtsman Grant Wharington, a skipper in the forthcoming Volvo Ocean Race, Skandia Wild Thing was one of the largest yachts to race in the famous Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race in 2004 and recently arrived in Southampton from her home in Melbourne, Australia to compete in Skandia Cowes Week and the Rolex Fastnet Race in August.

Following a safety briefing from skipper Adrian Butterworth, the sailors, who were invited by the Skandia Sailing Club and are all active in RYA Sailability’s broad range of sailing programmes across the country, set sail on a course down Southampton Water.

Tim Ledbetter, a 16 year-old cerebral palsy sufferer from Southampton takes up the story: “We had very calm weather so had a smooth ride out into Southampton Water where we deployed the main sail. I was amazed at how quickly such a massive sail could be hoisted.

“We were then sailing under wind power and although there wasn’t much breeze, I really enjoyed watching the ease with which this massive vessel moved through the water. We were given a demonstration from the crew of the ship’s canting keel and were told it could tip 40 degrees which doesn’t sound like much until it actually happens. At 37 degrees we were asked if we wanted to go any further which I politely declined! I didn’t fancy testing the life jacket!

“On the way back I was given the awesome opportunity to steer the yacht. What an experience! The steering was really responsive to the slightest movement, something which surprised me because of the size of the yacht.

“The whole experience was amazing and the Skandia staff and crew were fantastic. I can’t thank them enough for their time and friendliness. It is certainly an experience that I will be telling my grandchildren about!” Tim added.