Sailing Offers the Chance to Dream Big

Published on February 17th, 2016

Helle Westergaard wrote this letter to the members of Royal Akarana Yacht Club, a club situated just to the east of Auckland, New Zealand. We hope you are as taken by these words about her son Lukas Gill as we were…

Lukas started sailing with the Royal Akarana Yacht Club in the spring 2014. Lukas has always enjoyed the chance to steer the boat when out on the water with his granddads and was keen to give sailing a go, now it is the highlight of his week.

Despite Lukas’ increased challenges in life due to Cerebral Palsy and reduced hearing, we have always tried to include Lukas in our family on equal grounds to his younger brothers and offer him equal opportunities.

Despite running being harder for Lukas then for his peers and brothers, Lukas loves PE at school and have given several sports after school a go (playball, football, tennis, swimming, horse riding, skiing), as well as completed one Weetbix tryatlon and taken part in the Halberg Junior Disability Games last year, however, sailing seems to be the summer sport for Lukas.

With sailing it is not a given that Lukas is last because his legs will not run as fast as everyone else, he has a fair chance to experience being in the lead and his competitive nature gets a chance to get a boost rather then a hit. We see Lukas coming home exhausted from sailing with a smile on his lips telling stories about being the one doing the best turn around a marker. I believe it has helped encourage Lukas to dare take part in team sports like netball and softball at school.

Growing older and towards a teen, we see the challenge and awareness of living with a disability both physically and mentally. We believe that the sailing is helping to give Lukas’ self confidence a boost.

The Royal Akarana Yacht Club has been very supportive of Lukas right from the beginning. Investing in the Hansa 2.3 accessible boat that Lukas is sailing in, means he does not need to be scared of capsizing, which gives him confidence on the water. He is sailing with lots of young kids who are very supportive of him and all wants to sail with him in his boat. When he is on the water I believe his disability is less of a boundary.

I asked Lukas to describe what it is he love about sailing, he answered: “I feel free out on the water and I feel no different to everyone else. My goal is to take part in the Paralympics one day.”

Sailing is giving Lukas so much more then just a nice time out on the water, it is giving him a chance to dream big.


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