EAST's History

East Anglian Sailing Trust (EAST), established at the end of 1996, is a registered charity which is based at Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington on the River Orwell. It provides disabled people and their friends and helpers the opportunity to enjoy regular sailing in a safe environment, using specialist equipment where necessary. EAST has no paid staff, and relies totally on its volunteers. This is supplemented by the continuing support it receives from local sailing organisations and their members, as well as funding from a number of sources, both local and national.

EAST grew out of an informal initiative in 1993 between the former RYA Seamanship Foundation (now RYA Sailability), Bill Smith of the East Anglian Sea School and Michael Spear of Suffolk Yacht Harbour (SYH), to provide an annual East Coast cruise for visually impaired sailors. This has been developed to include weekend taster events involving a team of over twenty, locally based, volunteer yacht owners.

In 1996, Kevin Curtis, who had won a gold medal in yachting at the Atlanta Paralympic Games, and was now sailing a National Squib keelboat at Haven Ports Yacht Club, persuaded Michael and Bill to extend the blind sailing activities to include other disabilities, and so EAST was established as a separate charity, with a keelboat section, to provide regular weekly sailing opportunities for disabled adults.

Over the next few years, five Squib keelboats were acquired, and in 2001, HRH The Princess Royal opened our first dedicated training room.

Since then, the fleet has built up to twelve keelboats and two support boats. These are used to run disabled sailing evenings at least twice weekly, and most weekends throughout the summer. An annual taster day is held to attract new participants to our sport.

In 2009, with help from Suffolk County Council’s Activity Unlimited programme, the Trust started regular sailing sessions for disabled children. We also hosted the UK National Blind Sailing Championships. These were such a success that the event was repeated in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

By the middle of 2010, it was becoming apparent that EAST had outgrown its premises, and we were lucky to be offered a lease on the building next door, which is over double the size. With the help of a £50,000 grant from the National Lottery Peoples’ Millions programme, this has now been converted into a Waterside Centre, with dedicated accessible changing rooms, as well as a training room and boat maintenance facilities.

We were delighted to welcome two special visitors in 2011! In April Griff Rhys Jones, agreed to officially open the new Waterside Centre. This was followed by a day of entertainment and activities including an auction featuring Griff as the Auctioneer which raised a considerable sum for EAST. The Princess Royal honoured us with a return visit in September. After a tour of the new centre she named the latest Squib to the fleet 'East Ashore'. This boat is used for land-based training activities thus enhancing the training facilities EAST are able to offer.
four of the fleet sailing in the distance.