Greg Mulholland has visited Otley Sailing Club to see first-hand the work they do with young people with special needs and disabilities.

Greg joined Norman Stephens OBE and carers to take part in a Sailfree session, with young people with special needs and disabilities enabled to enjoy sailing. Greg has been a regular visitor to the Club and a big supporter of the Sailfree programme since he was first elected in 2005 and was present when the Princess Royal visited the Club in 2006.

Otley Sailing Club first began providing sailing opportunities for disabled people and people with complex learning difficulties under the “Sailing for All” banner in 1989 thanks to the vision and hard work of Norman Stephens and the then commodore, David Grimshaw, followed not long afterwards by Derek Chapman.

Greg joined the team and helped people in and out of the sailing boats and also joined them on the club’s motor launch. The Sailfree programme allows people with complex needs to enjoy the freedom of sailing, with carers or family and people come from miles around to Otley to join Norman.

The programme, however, is reliant on volunteers and sponsors to be able to operate and people and companies who may be interested in this are asked to make contact with Norman at the Club and go and see the inspirational work for themselves. Anyone who might be interested in helping and wants to see the programme in action should contact Norman at 01943 850391.

In 2013 the club received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service from the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Dr Ingrid Roscoe. The club upgraded the clubhouse to include a brand new Wheelchair Accessible Wet Room. The grant also allowed them to install a new slope free access path so wheelchairs can be brought to the clubhouse in safety, along with an all new anti-slip floor, new doors and new changing room benches. This was followed by the Duke of York Award for voluntary service to the community.

Commenting Greg Mulholland said:

“I was delighted to visit Otley Sailing Club and actually take part in the amazing work they are doing with young people with special needs and disabilities through Sailfree. It is hugely inspiring to watch the way that they work with young disabled people and the professional, caring attitude they have to every young person.

“You can see the freedom that the initiative gives to the young people who take part. Going out on the boat is an experience that many of them won’t have had before and probably won’t have expected to have. To see the smiles on the faces of those enjoying sailing is so powerful and I would urge those who might be interested in helping by volunteering or sponsoring the programme to also go along and see the work at first hand.

“Norman and the Club deserve huge praise for this amazing work and I hope that other people will get involved and ensure as many people as possible can take part in the programme and enjoy sailing in Otley”.

Norman Stephens added:

“It was great to welcome Greg once again to the club. He has supported us over the last 12 years. He was impressed with the way in which we transferred the wheelchair users and quickly got the hang of winding the winch. I was able to explain how we now operate 4 days per week totally staffed by volunteers. He agreed to look into one or two possible sources of funding, and also help us find more volunteers.”

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