‘For the first time in my life I felt free of my disability'

11 Mar 2020 12:39
Published by: Daniel Almond

DISCOVERING sailing has transformed Hannah Shelmerdine's (34) outlook in life, from one of loneliness and isolation to a world of possibilities, freedom and friendship. 

With acute Cerebral Palsy Hannah needs 24 hour care and after leaving education she found herself becoming increasingly depressed, recalling those days as a seemingly endless loop of daytime television or shopping with careers. Today, Hannah describes herself as a ‘disabled extreme sportswoman' but this was not always the case.

"Eventually I was so unwell I became desperate. Then my sister suggested sailing, I'd never seen a sailing boat before so I had no idea but I just thought I'd go and see if I like it" Hannah explained.

Hannah and her sister went along to Bolton Sailability (at Bolton Sailing Club) in the summer of 2016 where she was taken out on a boat that day. "For the first time in my life I felt free of my disability and all its restrictions. I left my wheelchair behind" she explained.

Hannah helms a double-handed boat with a crew and in light winds can sail single-handed with the aid of a powerboat driver alongside to give directions. As she has limited use of her left hand she is able to adjust the sails and steering using specially adapted controls.

During her first season at the club, Hannah began to learn how to race competing at the RYA Sailability Multiclass Regatta two years running. Today she is a Rooster-sponsored ambassador for the sport and hopes to take part in a tall ship adventure with the Jubilee Sailing Trust.

"Sailing really has opened up a world of opportunity" said Hannah. "It made me realise there is a life out there to be had. Sailing has given me the confidence to try other things and make new friends. One of my carers recently said to me: "We couldn't get you out at one point and now we can't keep you in!"

If you'd like more information about sailing for people with disabilities please visit www.rya.org.uk/sailability

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