Adapted Sailing

Around 1980, designer Bruce Kirby laid down the plans for an agile yet stable club racer known as the Sonar. This 23-foot day racer has a beautifully contoured spacious cockpit, sit-in safety and inherent stability and became popular many learn to sail and learn to race schools.

Early in the 1990’s members of the Nyack Boat Club formed Sonar Fleet 23 and a few years later announced plans for its first Sonar Class Tappan Zee Challenge Regatta. The event proved popular with local racers and enjoys a fine reputation for good racing and the hospitality extended by the host club. Racers routinely travel from New England as well as from all over the metropolitan area to participate. Included in those loyal participants were a dedicated group of sailors with disabilities. For you see, the Sonar was adopted years ago by the world's disabled sailors as their premier boat for national, world and Paralympic racing.

Adapted sports such as skiing, have received a degree of notoriety in recent years. These programs involve adapting equipment so that a disabled person can enjoy the sport and competition, in spite of their disabilities. But what about sailing? Well, adapted sailing involves modifying a sailboat for the same purpose. Sailors with disabilities found the boats to have a crew-friendly configuration that allows them to sail efficiently and safely while at the same time giving them the performance and excitement enjoyed by their able-bodied friends and the boats proved easily adapted to accommodate sailors with disabilities.

Over the years, fine sailors such as Paul Callahan, Rick Doerr, John Twomey and Jennifer French have proved over and over that their disability can not prevent them from winning sailboat races at the Tappan Zee Challenge. Year after year they returned to support the regatta to the undying gratitude of those of us at Nyack. It was for that reason that in 2004 the members of Fleet 23 elected to show their appreciation for the years of support, friendship and inspiration shown by our friends with disabilities by supporting programs that offered those with disabilities the opportunity to learn to sail. Members identified active adapted sailing programs as worthy beneficiaries of a small fund raiser to be held annually in conjunction with the Tappan Zee Challenge. An annual donation to a sailing program that serves sailors with disabilities is made each year in the name of Ralph D. Hinsch, one of the founding members of Sonar Fleet 23 in at the Nyack Boat Club.

In addition to donating funds to adapted sailing programs like US Sailing Disabled Sailing Team, Shake-a-leg / Team Paradise and New England Competitive Sailing Center, the fleet decided to step up and offer an introduction to adapted sailing locally in conjunction with physical therapists from a nationally renowned rehabilitation hospital in the area. The fleet created its own Adapted Sailing Clinic in 2004 to introduce therapists and persons with disabilities to the sport of sailing. The program begins by giving basic sailing and safety instruction off the water about a week prior to the event in a classroom session at the Club. Next on the Friday prior to the Tappan Zee Challenge Regatta, therapist and the sailors rehearse the safe transfer procedures that are required to move the sailor from the wheelchair to the boat. There is a meet and greet session with more experienced sailors with disabilities and their coaches and a luncheon for the participants. And finally, with their confidence built, the sailors take the helm under the supervision of an experienced skipper and along side of a trained therapist for support and experience the thrill and freedom of sailing on the Hudson River.

After sailing, participants are invited to return to the club on Saturday to view the regatta races from spectator boats provided by the members and are invited to the regatta dinner on Saturday evening to round out the sailing experience.

The Adapted Sailing Clinic has received wide acclaim from participants, professionals and media alike and many participants return the following year. Fleet 23 is justifiably proud of the program and welcome your interest either as a participant or a volunteer in future events. You will find much more information about the Adapted Sailing Clinic and Tappan Zee Challenge fundraiser on this web page by viewing the video presentation on this page as well as by selecting the highlighted links and downloading related files shown on this page and on the Sonar page of the Nyack Boat Club web site.

Both individual and corporate sponsorships are welcome to assist us in growing this valuable program. For more information about the Adapted Sailing Clinic or the Tappan Zee Challenge fundraiser you may contact either:

Jan Crittenden at


Joe Scarmato at

We look forward to hearing from you and Thank you.