KAY RAWBONE is a British expat who has been in HK for almost 20 years. She is also the CEO of Sailability Hong Kong, a registered charity which she co-founded with her late husband Mike which offers sailing courses and recreational sailing to people from all walks of life.
What’s Sailability’s mission?
To make sailing accessible to everyone!
Tell us a bit about what you do.
We’re the only organisation in Hong Kong providing specialist sailing courses and programmes for people with disabilities or other life challenges that are underrepresented within the community.
Sailability Hong Kong’s ethos is around providing a water-based experience that offers therapy, rehabilitation and education while also enhancing confidence, communication and technical skills, and improving mental wellness and self-esteem through new friendships and via a sport that’s both accessible and inclusive.
When was Sailability launched in Hong Kong, and how has it developed since then?
We started in 2009, with HHYC support and four young adults with special educational needs (SEN). Since then, our programmes have served up to 6,000 different people, with many returning on a regular basis to improve their skills and join our international sailing teams, or just for leisure.
In excess of 16,000 individual sailings have been undertaken since we started inception. At the time of this interview, we have 38 boats, and we’re seeing around 250 to 300 sailings each month; and in 2021, there were more than 3,000 for the year.
In 2013, we opened up to sailors with physical disabilities and other life challenges. We have subsequently won medals for Hong Kong and have held World Sailing Para Sailing events here, while also taking sailors of all abilities and ages to represent Hong Kong internationally.
Today, we continue to provide sailing opportunities to everyone in Hong Kong irrespective of ability, gender, ethnicity, age, status, sexuality, religion and status. We aim to break down barriers in communities while finding ways to support those who wish to sail with us.
Sailability courses are now in the curriculum for some SEN schools, and we’ve been recognised by World Sailing as the most advanced centre in Asia and one of the busiest globally in all that we do.
What do you get out of this work?
From a very early age, I have known people with different life challenges, and in 2009 Mike and I had the chance to give back to the local community something that he and I had enjoyed during our lives. Sailing is one of the most inclusive sports you will find.
What’s new at Sailability?
The addition of our “big boat” Mo Han to our fleet in July 2022 – funded by the Li Ka Shing Foundation (LKSF) and supported by the Solarista Club – has provided a different therapeutic dimension to our sailing, and provided more opportunities for our sailors to participate in an inclusive racing team. It also offers more teamwork training and family sailing opportunities that our smaller boats can’t always provide; and it has wheelchair access too. This will be a self-funded project – a huge thank you to the LKSF for making this happen.
What are some of your current initiatives?
We continue to grow in all we do. We’re looking to have Hong Kong’s first quadriplegic sailor sail by himself in 2023. This has already been achieved in Europe, Australia and the Americas, and it will be another first for Hong Kong. We’re also working with The Hong Kong Society for the Deaf to support HK’s first deaf sailing team.
How can readers contribute or volunteer?
Sailability is always looking to attract more monthly donations from both individuals and corporates/ organisations to support our regular programmes as we reach out further within the community. Our sailors’ ages now range from seven to 92 years, so we really do provide opportunities for everyone within our regular Sailability Programmes. We also look for volunteers from all walks of life and with very diverse skills, so please get in touch at email@example.com.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2022/23 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.