Youth Sailing Foundation launches adaptive sailing for special needs children and adults


Kym Helwig and student Tricia Torre underway.

Local history was made on September 18, 2018 with the launch of an adaptive sailing program at Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River County, Inc.  Utilizing specially designed sailboats, YSF instructors introduced eight eager individuals to the joys of sailing the Indian River Lagoon.  YSF has partnered with two other local non-profits, The Arc and Special Olympics Florida–Indian River County, to identify and recruit the first class of special needs sailors, ranging in age from 12 to 61.

YSF volunteer Dick Gates donated the fleet of three sailboats uniquely designed for sailors with physical, emotional or cognitive impairment.   The boats feature side-by-side seating for instructor and student, deep cockpits for greater security and stability, joystick steering and simplified rigging.   YSF’s newly installed ADA compliant gangway and floating dock provides simple and safe access for boarding and disembarking.

Program Director and Instructor Kym Helwig is particularly qualified to develop and run YSF’s Adaptive Sailing Program.  A US Sailing Certified Instructor, Ms Helwig combines sailing expertise with an educational background and personal interest in helping the mentally and physically impaired. Her soothing personality and gentle patience put everyone at ease and helps even apprehensive first-time participants experience the joy of piloting a sailboat. Together with Dick Gates, a long-time volunteer in other adaptive sailing programs, the pair has assembled a strong team to serve the special needs community in Indian River County.

Feedback has been extremely positive from the sailors, care givers and program directors involved in this new adaptive sailing program. While some are tentative at first, that quickly turns to smiles and laughter as they get underway, followed by the inevitable satisfaction of returning to shore after a successful voyage.

YSF’s mission is based on the premise that sailing goes way beyond fun on the water, fostering confidence, self-esteem, and skills that become the building blocks of a successful life. Sailing requires focus and decision making while providing a unique means of enjoying the beautiful outdoors and particularly the Indian River Lagoon. This new program enables YSF to extend that mission to a new segment of the local community.

For information on all YSF programs, please visit or call the office at 772-492-3243.

One comment

  1. Thanks for the notice , I have delivered a youth sailor to the program when his parents were out of town. I asked about an unusual shaped hull and he told me about the program.
    The rowers also need to develop a similar program; I had a neighbor who was very active as a paraplegic rower in Valley Forge on the Schuylkill River. It gave him a freedom from the wheel chair.

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