Tel: 01623 707017
We've Got Mansfield, Ashfield & Sherwood Covered


Giving cerebral palsy sailors a chance

Posted onPosted on 17th Jun
Giving cerebral palsy sailors a chance

London 2012 Paralympic medalist and British Sailing Team sailor Niki Birrell is backing a new initiative from sailing’s national governing body, the RYA, to get more people with cerebral palsy into the sport.

On Saturday, 4 July (from 10am), The Mill Adventure Base, Sutton, is opening its doors for people with cerebral palsy to have a go at sailing as the centre runs free taster sessions including in specially adapted boats.

As a recognised RYA Sailability centre, The Mill is part of the national Sailability programme aimed at introducing people with disabilities to sailing and encouraging them to sail regularly. Through RYA Sailability over 53,000 young people and adults with disabilities are introduced to sailing each year.

Born with cerebral palsy, Niki, now 28, is a five-time World sailing champion, and, with his sailing partner, Alexandra Rickham, made his second Paralympic Games appearance at London 2012, where the pair won bronze in the SKUD 18 class. They are currently training towards Rio 2016 where they hope to convert that to gold.

Niki said: “Sailing is one of the few sports where people with disabilities can compete on a completely level playing field as able-bodied people.

“My granddad used to have a boat and Dad did that on holidays and thought me and my brother might like it. I’m a pretty competitive person, but because I’ve got a little bit of cerebral palsy I wasn’t too good at football and rugby, I wanted a sport where I could win against able-bodied people. We bought a boat and I’ve loved it ever since.

“I’ve competed at a high level in Olympic and other ‘able’ class boats as well as in my Paralympic class competition and sailing has been my life. I’m obsessed with it and it is fantastic more people with CP are now being encouraged to give the sport a go.”

Niki isn’t the only cerebral palsy sailor making big waves on the national stage – teenage charity fundraiser Natasha Lambert recently received the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for raising over £50,000 through solo sailing challenges including across the English Channel and sailing from Cowes into London.

Born with severe athetoid cerebral palsy affecting her limbs and speech, Natasha uses a wheelchair and requires 24-hour a day help. She explains what sailing has given her.

Natasha said: “If you are looking for an inclusive sport, look no further than sailing, it has everything, its exciting exhilarating challenging and more. There are no barriers in sailing. When I’m sailing the only restrictions is my own ability to make my boat perform. It’s the most liberating feeling there is.”

The Mill’s cerebral palsy taster day is one of five such events being held around England this summer. The initiative is being supported by CP Sport, the country’s leading national disability sports organisation supporting people with cerebral palsy to reach their sporting potential.

The Mill Adventure Base is a purpose built, urban adventure centre situated at Kings Mill Reservoir, Sutton in Ashfield. Part of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Outdoor and Environmental Education Service, The Mill is a recognised RYA Training Centre meaning it conforms to the highest standards of quality and safety.

If you are an individual, family or local community group interested in getting involved in The Mill’s taster sessions on 4 July, call 01623 556110 or email [email protected] for more information or to book. For more information about RYA Sailability visit