Coming of Age Celebration

20/04/2017
The East Anglian Sailing Trust (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 (EASS) and Michael Spear of Suffolk Yacht Harbour (SYH) to provide an annual east coast cruise for visually impaired sailors (Vis). This has been developed each year since then to also include weekend taster events involving a team of over twenty, locally based, volunteer yacht owners.
In 1996 Kevin Curtis, a sailing gold medal winner at the Atlanta Paralympic Games, was sailing a National Squib keelboat at Haven Ports Yacht Club, he persuaded Michael and Bill to extend the blind sailing activities to include other disabilities. This led to EAST being established as a separate charity, with a keelboat section, to provide regular weekly sailing opportunities for adults with a wider range of disabilities, and a VI section to provide sailing on yachts. The Trust became a registered charity based at SYH.
The Trust provides people with disabilities and their helpers with the opportunity to enjoy regular sailing in a safe environment, using specialist equipment where necessary. Over the next years few years five Squib keelboats were acquired, and in 2001, HRH The Princess Royal opened EAST’s first dedicated training room.
From Little Acorns
Since then the fleet has been built up to twelve keelboats and two support boats. These are used to run disabled sailing evenings at least twice weekly, most weekends and some days for groups from April to September. EAST participates in the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Push the Boat Out Week to help attract new sailors. The VI section continues to provide two taster weekends and a week-long cruise on yachts each year.
In 2009 with the help from Suffolk County Council ‘s Activities Unlimited programme the Trust started regular sailing sessions for children with disabilities. In 2012, in partnership with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust we started a Discoverers Project for young people with learning difficulties from local schools. Our Discoverers sail and also investigate the flora and fauna in Levington Creek and on the River Orwell.
EAST hosted the UK National Blind Sailing Championships in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
By the middle of 2010 it was becoming apparent that EAST had outgrown its premises and we negotiated a lease on the building next door, which is over double the size. With the help of a £50,000 grant from the National Lotteries Peoples’ Millions programme, this has now been converted into the EAST Waterside Community 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 EAST Waterside Community Centre. This was followed by a day of entertainment and activities including an auction with Griff as the auctioneer and which raised a considerable sum for EAST.
The Princess Royal honoured EAST 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.
EAST is now an RYA Sailability Centre of Excellence, an RYA Recognised Training Centre and an RYA OnBoard Centre.
The future?
In 2012 the Trustees undertook a detailed look at EAST’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and formulated a Five Year Development Plan. EAST is unable to reduce its costs because most of our expenses are fixed being spent on rent, insurance, depreciation and berthing. The only way that we can reduce our cost per sailor session is to increase the number of sessions, this means attracting and retaining more sailors, and also means that we have to attract more volunteers.
EAST volunteers have a passion for sailing and also a passion for assisting our disabled sailors to enjoy that experience.
May I thank all our volunteers and their partners for their dedication, our donors and sponsors for their financial assistance and local firms for their support.
EAST has no paid staff and relies on its team of volunteers. The continuing support from local sailing clubs, their members, as well as funding from local and national sources is greatly appreciated.
The Trustees are looking forward to the Coming of Age Celebrations on Saturday 20 May 2017.