Caitlin Hanna & Montana Bahen

Isn’t It Swell? Stakeholders Experiences’ With An Adaptive Sailing Program

Authors: Caitlin Hanna, Montana Bahen, Dr. Ben Mortenson, Dr. Jaimie Borisoff, Johanne Mattie & Dr. Delphine Labbe

Introduction. Participation in leisure is associated with increased subjective well-being, social connectedness, and positive emotional experiences (Brajša-Žganec,  Merkaš, & Šverko, 2011). However, people with disabilities may have limited access to leisure activities, especially those taking place in natural settings (Perrier, Smith, Strachan, & Latimer-Cheung, 2013). Adaptive sailing is a leisure activity that exists worldwide; however, few studies have explored participants’ experiences. There are anecdotal claims, by sailing clubs and websites, that it is the most inclusive activity for all levels of disability or diagnoses. Objectives. To explore the experiences of sailors, staff, and volunteers involved in an adaptive sailing summer program. Methods. Data was collected using an ethnographic approach including participant observations and semi-structured interviews.  Participants were recruited through a local adaptive sailing program, and GoPro footage was collected to capture sailing excursions and various adaptations. Thematic analysis was completed by the research team on an ongoing basis throughout the study. Results. Twenty days of observational data were collected at the sailing site and 18 qualitative interviews were completed. Analysis of the data identified three main themes: 1) “Anchors away: reasons for setting sail” describes the benefits of being in nature, and the freedom and independence adaptive sailing offers. 2) “Running ashore: challenges with program delivery” acknowledges the various difficulties that sailors and staff face in accessing or participating in adaptive sailing. 3) “All hands on deck: daily logistics and future directions” explores the management of daily operations and identifies directions for the future of the program. Conclusions. This is one of the first studies to examine the impact of adapted sailing and the experiences for all stakeholders, including sailors, staff, and volunteers.  Findings will be conveyed to the adaptive sailing program to develop strategies to improve user experiences, mitigate barriers to participation, enhance programming, and lobby for additional funding.


Brajša-Žganec, A., Merkaš, M., & Šverko, I. (2011). Quality of life and leisure activities: How do leisure activities contribute to subjective well-being?.Social Indicators Research, 102(1), 81-91.

Perrier, M. J., Smith, B., Strachan, S. M., & Latimer-Cheung, A. E. (2014). Narratives of athletic identity after acquiring a permanent physical disability. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 31(2), 106-124.