Sailing for the disabled on one of Europe's largest man-made reservoirs has become easier and more convenient following the arrival of a new Massey Ferguson compact tractor to help launch and retrieve the specially-adapted boats.
The tractor - a 32hp MF 1532A - has been purchased by Rutland Sailability, a registered charity established in the mid 1990s to help people with any disability experience the thrill and enjoyment of sailing. Based at the Rutland Sailing Club, Rutland Sailability has been awarded Centre of Excellence status by the Royal Yachting Association, recognising the club's sustained hard work and efforts in helping the disabled go sailing.
All 31 boats in Rutland Sailability's fleet are used on Rutland Water, a 1,255ha reservoir created in the 1970s to supply water to the UK's East Midlands region. Ranging in size from small sailing dinghies to multi-hull trimarans and Paralympic class racing skiffs, the specially-adapted boats allow one or more disabled people to take to the water on their own or in the company of more experienced sailors.
For those who are less able or adventurous, the club also has a comfortable and stable 5.2m Longboat which can take up to eight people sailing on Rutland Water.
Although the majority of the boats can be launched from their trailers by hand or with the aid of a golf buggy, the seven largest boats - which include the Longboat and a Pioner Multi safety boat - need a more powerful vehicle capable of being driven into the water so that the boat can be floated away from its trailer . . . and be retrieved when sailing is finished for the day.
Previously, Rutland Sailability had relied on Rutland Sailing Club's tractor for the job, but it was not always readily available, so the club decided to buy its own tractor using money secured by fund-raising activities and from members' own contributions.
"We asked local Massey Ferguson dealer, Fentons of Bourne, for their advice and they organised for us a number of test drives of the MF 1532A," explained Barry Parsisson, Rutland Sailability's deputy chairman. "We took the decision to order the tractor, reassured by the fact that Massey Ferguson is a well-known and reputable brand with excellent dealer support exemplified by Fentons who have provided a superb service to the sailing club for many years."
Delivered fitted with a front ball hitch, the tractor is driven by experienced volunteers who are on hand to help move Sailability's larger sailing boats down to and into the water and out again later, as and when required.
"Although it was a significant investment for the club, the tractor has given our members the ability to go sailing whenever they want at a moment's notice," said Barry. "It really does meet all of our needs."
● Website: www.rutland-sailability.org
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