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Connect With…Urunga Sail Training Club

Meet the Urunga Sail Training Club – one of our ConnectABLE community partners. The Urunga Sail Training Club originated in 2010 out of a couple of mates’ dream to make sailing accessible to everyone in the community. We talk with Commodore Derek Ridgley about social inclusion and how support from the local community is key to helping the club live up to its aim.

How did the club come about?

Derek: My good friend Jason Case set up a sailing school for disadvantaged kids in Melbourne years ago. When he moved to the Coffs Coast, his dream was to set up something similar in Urunga. The plan was to start a training club together, but sadly, Jason passed away in a motorcycle accident in 2007. A couple of years later his wife asked me to help Jason’s legacy live on by getting the club up and running, so that is what we did.

Why did Urunga Sail Training Club partner with CCO on the ConnectABLE project?

Derek: We’ve always tried to do this. Our primary milestone has always been to include everybody in sailing – that’s just the way its been. It’s part of our mission statement.

How is the club inclusive? Why would anyone in the community feel welcome to join?

Derek: We’ve spent $30 000 on making our clubhouse accessible. We installed fully accessible toilets and showers, a new deck, ramps and we made our kitchen accessible. ETC gave us $12 000 for accessible boats and we’ve also installed a hoist at our boat ramp.  All we need now is a group of members who can make the most of our facilities and some committed volunteers to help make it happen. We also have a headspace sail training group for young people at risk . This has been running for five terms now and has been really successful. Personally, before the club I hadn’t had a lot of experience with people with disability. I don’t see the disability. You’ve got to look past that and think “How are we going to make this work?”.

Tell us about your accessible sailing days in March and what you hope to achieve through this?

Derek: Our aim is to achieve a self perpetuating group. We want people living with disability to become active members of the club as that is the only way to be truly inclusive. More members will lead to more boats and more people out sailing. It’s not just about a social outing if individuals are wanting more out of it. If individuals show an interest and aptitude we want to train them in their Yachting Australia certification or part of it – whatever they’re able to do. The key to getting this off the ground and making it sustainable is volunteers from the community. We need people to muck in and assist the students and their carers with setting up and packing up – some of the tasks that students might need some help with. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to sail, as long as you can give some regular time to the group on their sailing days.

If you are interested in joining the club and/or volunteering, contact Derek on info@sailurunga.org.au or 0427 115 892. Visit www.sailurunga.org.au for more details.

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