At Expo '86, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher donated
a British-made Sunbird sailboat to Rick Hansen in honour of his
“Man in Motion” world tour. In 1989, Rick presented
the boat to Sam Sullivan, who subsequently used it to help found
the Disabled Sailing Association of BC (DSA). Within a few short
years, DSA had a total of 16 specially adapted Sunbird sailboats
in three British Columbia Chapters -- Vancouver, Victoria and
A breakthrough came in 1993, when Sip
'n’ Puff controls were added to one of the Sunbirds.
This technology opened the world of sailing to tetraplegics
-- those with little or no upper body mobility. Through pneumatic
switches they can control the boat. Although the Sunbird remained
functional, the equipment and safety modifications required for
Sip ‘n’ Puff technology affected the performance of
the boat and prompted DSA to search for an alternative.
Today, at the heart of the program, is the Martin
16 sailboat - a vessel designed and built in Vancouver that
is becoming the standard for disabled sailors everywhere. The
Martin 16 is unsinkable, maneuverable and fast. It can be easily
equipped with the modular Sip 'n' Puff system.
DSA currently operates a fleet of
eight Martin 16s. Program support comes from a team of student/instructors
hired for the summer months and a rich contingent of volunteers
who devote hundreds of hours each year assisting sailors, maintaining
equipment and operating DSA’s safety zodiac.
During DSA's first summer season in 1989 at
Sailing Centre in Vancouver, 22 sailing sessions were logged
with the original Sunbird sailboat. Today, the DSA has branches
Victoria, Chemainus and Kelowna
as well as Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Moncton,
Sarnia, Regina, Winnipeg, Kingston, Montreal and Halifax. Branches
have also been established in the United States in Washington
State, Oregon, California and New York. The sailing programs teach
the basics of navigation and provide quality instruction for younger
children under adult supervision. To date, DSA has provided
over 10,000 sailing experiences to both children and adults and
has attracted over 400 volunteers.
This year, more than 1,000 sailing experiences
will be enjoyed by people with disabilities at the Jericho Sailing
Centre. Recreational outings will be interspersed with regular
and special racing events on a weekly basis for both adults and
DSA sailing programs provide opportunities at
every level, including quality instruction for children under
adult supervision. As sailors become more confident and skilled,
they often begin to compete in regular racing sessions, leading
to larger regattas and cup races held annually across the country.
Three DSA alumni, Brian MacDonald, Paul Tingley and Jamie Whitman
teamed to win bronze medals at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney,
DSA is a not-for-profit organization that depends on philanthropy, membership fees and the efforts of volunteers to fulfill its mission. Its core values are:
- The inherent worth and dignity of all individuals.
- Relationships embodying the qualities of
openness, acceptance, respect, and honesty.
- The importance of working together to achieve
healthy, inclusive communities.
- The unique potential within all persons to
learn, to grow, to care for others, to make their own decisions,
to enjoy a fulfilling quality of life, and to contribute to
DSA is shaped by the following beliefs:
- That volunteers are essential
partners in the development of people with significant disabilities
and in the advancement of DSA in the community.
- In the potential of all individuals
and the role each person plays in the growth of strong, healthy
- In programs that are healthy, safe
and fun for participants, staff and volunteers. DSA programs encourage fun
- In structuring programs to build
self-confidence and self-esteem. DSA programs are designed to
stimulate personal growth and independence.
- Celebrating diversity.
- Offering programs aimed at increasing leadership
capacity and developing specific skill sets