We all know sailing is about R&R – Rest and Relaxation, but at the Adaptive Sailing Association of British Columbia (ASABC), it’s also about F&F – Friendships and Freedom for people with disabilities.
Jack Tait, newly 92 years old, has been sailing since he left high school in the Okanagan when a friend took him out and ignited his love for being on the water.
“I joined the sailing club in Kelowna, and they talked me into getting into the lightning fleet. So I built my own 19-foot boat and sailed there for many years before moving to Victoria,” where Jack said he never did get around to sailing, despite always meaning to.
After moving to Vancouver and developing post-polio syndrome, Jack wanted to get back to the freedom of the open water. He’d already been living in Vancouver for a few years when he told his friend Jean Donaldson that he wanted to go to the Jericho Sailing Centre to see if there was anything for people with disabilities.
Jean had never sailed before, but she went with Jack, and together they found the Adaptive Sailing (Disabled Sailing back then) Association of British Columbia.
“It’s an excellent learning experience. Many people have never sailed before in their lives. I had sailed for many years before and was sailing as well as I could, but ASABC brought me to a higher standard,”Jack Tait
Over the years, Jack, Jean, and other sailors they befriended from ASABC travelled the country, sailing in regattas like the Mobility Cup, making more friends worldwide, and bonding over the friendly competition.
“It was a great experience. And Jean became an excellent sailor. She had never sailed before, and she was quite disabled but very bright and could master it very well. After a while, she sailed better than I did and was higher up in the rankings,” Jack said with a small laugh.
Jean passed away last year and is remembered fondly and missed by many at ASABC and the Disabled Independent Gardeners Association (Jean was a great gardener, and when she wanted to join DIGA, Jack was right alongside her.)
“That’s one of the things that I enjoy most. You make so many new friends, and they all bring their own experiences with them, so you learn about the various activities and accomplishments that disabled people have been able to achieve.
As a matter of fact, I’m meeting some fellow sailors for lunch today; that’s why I have to cut this visit short,” Jack said. He’s good friends with several local sailors from ASABC, so during the off-season, they make sure to get together still, “these really are social bonds, you know!” he exclaimed.
One of the friends Jack is having lunch with has no movement in his arms or legs and can sail independently in one of ASABC’s Martin 16 sailboats with the sip-and-puff technology.
“If you can’t walk, but you can sail on your own, with no help, it is a great boost in your morale, you know?”Jack Tait
Jack’s passion was palatable talking about ASABC’s fleet of adaptive boats. The boats being owned and maintained by ASABC makes it affordable for people with disabilities to enjoy sailing.
“I sailed long before I became disabled and was able to continue sailing through the ASABC. There’s nothing like being out there on English Bay on a nice summer day with a nice wind. It’s such a lovely place to sail because there is quite a bit of freedom and many interesting things to see.”
Jack said that he could get out on the water with ASABC whenever he wanted in the early days; he even took people out himself as a volunteer. But, an increased demand without increasing funding means it can now be challenging to get a spot. Adaptive sailing has become quite popular within the disability community, and slots book up fast.
Today, ASABC operates eight specially designed Martin 16 sailboats and provides an average of 1,000+ sails each year. Unfortunately, this summer will look a little different after storms severely damaged the Jericho Beach Pier in the off-season.
“I think ASA is a worthy cause. It’s a neglected area, sports for disabled people. Society is not doing enough to promote activities and facilities for disabled people.Jack Tait
Sailing is one way people with disabilities can enjoy life better, more fully. And give them a sense of accomplishment. That’s what ASABC has done for me,” and with that, Jack was ready for lunch with his friends from the Adaptive Sailing Association of British Columbia.
Help us empower more people like Jack by making a donation to ASABC online at the button below: