Here at SEAS, we are proud to provide sailing and racing opportunities for those in Sheboygan and the surrounding communities who have a wide variety of physical or cognitive impairments.
Our goal is to assist our disabled sailors in growing confidence and a sense of freedom through empowering experiences on the water, enabling a strong sense of self that they can carry with them to their daily lives. This is a unique opportunity for the sailors who come through our program to take charge of a boat on their own or in a group of friends and family.
Our Adaptive Sailing program is based on this goal, and we take it seriously. While we continue to grow our program's ability to accommodate all needs, we must evaluate prospective students on an individual basis to determine our ability to provide a safe and fun learning environment. If you are accepted into our Adaptive Sailing program, there is no additional fee for instruction once you become a SEAS Member.
Most of our adaptive sailing lessons are conducted on Sonar sailboats, which have become a popular adaptive sailing class worldwide. A 23 foot long keelboat, Sonars are known for their spacious, open cockpit. Designed by Bruce Kirby, who also designed the extremely popular Laser dinghy, these boats are recognized for being stable and durable. In addition to being suitable for beginners, our Sonars are also raced competitively in both open and disabled championships, including fleet and match racing.
We offer instruction on both an individual basis and to groups both small and large. Our instructors have a wide range of experience with disabled sailors and are US Sailing Certified instructors. Because our boats can be adapted to accommodate a variety of physical impairments, our staff is able to work with individuals to achieve their dreams whenever possible. Learn more about our most advanced adaptive sailing equipment in ‘Sailing with ALS’.
In the case of inclement weather, we have the facilities and experience to coordinate on-land activities for groups of any size and can prepare individuals to enhance their time and opportunity on the water.
SEAS has become a world leader in the development of technology for blind and visually impaired sailors. We are delighted to be able to play such an important role in expanding this branch of the sailing family tree and we continue to work with blind and visually impaired sailors themselves to make the sport more accessible, enjoyable and competitive.
Visually impaired and blind sailors enjoy the experience of sailing much the same as those with full use of their vision, they simply rely more on their senses of sound and touch. Every small increase or decrease of pressure on a line or the changes in heel and direction of a boat plays an important factor in the experience of a visually impaired sailor. We aim to assist in the process of understanding what each of these small changes mean.
Part of what makes SEAS a leader in the visually impaired sailing community are our improvements on the sound marks used in visually impaired and blind racing. Just like sighted sailors, these races happen around a course marked by buoys in the water – the only difference is, these marks make noise. Lots and lots of noise. Watch the video for a brief explanation of the different sounds.
In the Match Racing events, where there are no sighted guides on board the boats and the racing is one-on-one, each boat also carries a sound box which emits a loud beeping noise. This helps the sailors identify where the other boat is, even though they may not be able to see them. Between the sound marks and the sound boxes on the boats, the visually impaired and blind sailors are able to create a mental image of the race course, and to an outside observer the boats racing appear no different than in a sighted race. It is truly an impressive experience to be a part of, and we are proud to continue hosting Blind Match Racing Clinics and Regattas to advance the sport.
If you would like more information on visually impaired and blind sailing, or assistance with attending or running an event, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2014, the SEAS staff and Board of Directors made a decision that we hoped would change the lives of countless future sailors – to grow an Adaptive Sailing Program. Inspired by the story of Steve Heronemus, a sailor living with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), SEAS started developing technology and systems to be fitted on our Sonars that would eventually allow Steve, and many others, to once again experience the joy of sailing a boat on their own.
The first piece of the puzzle fell into place when the SEAS team, spearheaded by then-Bosun/Fleet Manager Nick Chadwick and past-Executive Director Rich Reichelsdorfer, built a chair in which Steve, or another person with similar physical impairments, could comfortably sit even if the boat is ‘heeled’, or sitting at an angle while moving through the water.
The next step was making it possible for Steve to control the steering and sail trim on his own – a tall task, but not out of reach for our friends at Harken! An engineering and manufacturing company based in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, Harken is consistently at the forefront of sailing technology and they lived up to expectations in their development of a system for the Sonar. Steve Orlebeke, Harken’s Director of Engineering, worked with Steve, Rich, Nick and the rest of the SEAS team extensively to create a bite-switch and button system for easing and trimming the sails and steering the boat even with extremely limited mobility. The final puzzle piece was launching the boat, and getting Steve in the chair in a good weather window.
We continue to develop this technology. Those living with ALS have constantly changing physical abilities, and we work hard to keep our systems up to speed with them. Since Steve inspired the development of the ALS system on our Sonars, he has been sailing with friends and family on his own countless times and pushes us to keep up with his needs and dreams. In 2016, five more individuals living with ALS were able to experience the freedom and happiness of sailing, and we hope to continue to expand our reach to others who will benefit from this experience. In return, the genuine joy and gratitude shown by these sailors for being in control of the boat they are on creates a positive impact on our staff and volunteers.