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Disabled sailor Becky Forster hailed as 'an inspiration to us all'
7:00am Thursday 20th September 2012 in Local news
A disabled woman has been hailed as ‘inspirational’ and a ‘pioneer’ after setting a new sailing benchmark.
Becky Forster, who has cerebral palsy, had to perform all the tasks asked of her able-bodied fellow trainees, including capsize drills, to earn the Dinghy Level 2 qualification she was awarded last weekend.
By doing so, the 32-year-old became a pioneer for Otley Sailing Club, which has coached people with disabilities for years under its Sailability scheme, but has never before had someone with a severe physical condition train alongside able-bodied sailors.
Miss Forster, from Horsforth, who only started sailing this summer, is now determined to become an instructor and hopes her achievement will inspire others.
She said: “I felt the chance to be involved in a sport alongside able-bodied people was impossible, until I discovered the club and its Sailability scheme.
“Within half-an-hour I was in one of the access dinghies they have for disabled people to sail in, being shown how wonderful and liberating sailing can be. I can honestly say by the end of that first taster session I was hooked and wanted more.
“Were it not for them I would still be sitting at home not feeling of any value, or believing that I could achieve anything. “Doing the course and being part of the club has increased my self-confidence so much and I now believe anything is possible.
“My aim now is to work my way up to being an instructor so I can teach other people the joys of sailing and illustrate just how inclusive it can be.”
Club Commodore Matt Thomas said: “Becky is a really inspirational young woman. This is quite a big landmark for us and she has earned her Dinghy Level 2 qualification fair and square, and even performed the capsize drill in a double handed Wayfarer dinghy - a part of the course that a lot of able-bodied candidates fear the most.
“Her attitude about her disability is that it’s not what she can’t do but what she can, that counts, and this is a great example to us all.
“Becky’s ambition is to become a sailing instructor and, with the determination she has already demonstrated, I can see no reason why this can’t be a reality in the future.”
Mrs Forster, who was assisted when needed in her training by her helper Nicky Coates, is now using the publicity surrounding her achievement to raise awareness about Otley Sailing Club and its courses.
She said: “The club ethos is very much about finding a way to enable disabled people to sail by honing in on the things they can do, rather than worrying about the things they can't.
“When I am in a boat I can 'sail free' and be equal to my able-bodied sailors, we really can work as a team and sail together with no barriers.”