A Teesside engineering firm has come to the rescue of an East Cleveland organisation helping disabled sailors.

Francis Brown Engineering has repaired Sailability's Challenger trimaran, specially adapted for use by the disabled. The independent Stockton company, which this year marks its 120th anniversary, used its expertise to weld a “tricky” 8mm stainless steel stud bolt, a key component that serves as the pivot point for the tiller, the connection to the rudder, used to steer the Challenger trimaran.

The Challenger is a specially adapted boat that offers stability and accessibility for disabled sailors, allowing them to sail independently.

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The Royal Yachting Association’s Sailability is a not-for-profit volunteer-based organisation, which through sailing, enriches the lives of people of all abilities. It has assisted more than 20,000 people in the UK to experience sailing and the freedom that comes with it.

The urgent need for repairs arose when John Tate, Sailability co-ordinator and member of Scaling Dam Sailing and Watersports Club, which offers Sailability opportunities to the North East community, appealed for help.

Recognising the importance of keeping the Challenger trimaran operational, especially with an imminent Regatta due to take place, Francis Brown Engineering promptly responded.

Belinda Noda, an experienced sailor with an impressive sailing record of 15,000 nautical miles, including a journey across the Atlantic, suffered a life-altering car accident nearly four decades ago, which resulted in a spinal cord injury. However, she discovered Sailability in the North East at the beginning of 2023 and subsequently became a member, meaning she could take to the water once again.

Belinda said: “Thanks to the generosity of Francis Brown’s expert welders, the tiller was fixed in time for the Challenger Regatta at Scaling Dam, which welcomes people from across the UK. I was able to sail, with help from buddies Harry King and Henry Blades. Since then, I can now sail solo, which is exhilarating.

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“Being able to sail again, after 40 years, thanks to the support of the amazing Sailability team, has been a huge boost to my confidence and emotional wellbeing. I would recommend it to anyone who experiences limited mobility to try the freedom and fun of getting out on the water.”

Dave Irving of Francis Brown, said: “We are pleased that our expertise has come to the rescue of local Scaling Dam Sailability, which can now continue to create opportunities for disabled sailors who enjoy the freedom of sailing.

“The dedication of all those involved in supporting Sailability showcases the positive impact that collaboration and community spirit can bring to individuals' lives. We were only too happy to play a small part in this noble effort.”