Providing sailing for autistic community

Published on May 30th, 2019

Last year, the charity Ausome embarked on the epic challenge of giving a crew of nine autistic people the opportunity to take part in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, the biennial 605nm offshore classic.

Founded by Lottie Harland, who is 22 years old and autistic herself, she will skipper the yacht Ausome-Lyra of London, a Nautor Swan 431 loaned to the campaign by its owner Miles Delap. Lottie intends for Ausome to help other autistic people experience the benefits and joys of sailing.

Lottie had a difficult childhood but started sailing at nine years of age and this built her confidence and the self-esteem that was knocked out of her by the constant bullying in school.

These positive sailing experiences helped her develop the life and social skills to become an independent and successful young adult, graduating with an engineering degree from university and becoming a qualified RYA Offshore Yachtmaster.

Autistic people can struggle to get into sailing on their own because new places and situations can cause immense anxiety, therefore participating in regular courses at a sailing school with people they don’t know and instructors who may not be aware of autism can be completely unfeasible.

Other sailing charities set up to help people with disabilities are also not the right environment for these autistic people, for example they can be noisy with non-verbal sailors trying to communicate or the boats used are generally not appropriate for someone who has no physical disabilities. Ausome was founded to bridge this gap in services for those autistic people looking to experience sailing for the first time or to further their skills.

“After a difficult childhood for being ‘different’ it was sailing that built my confidence and self-esteem and helped me to develop the life and social skills to become an independent and successful young adult,” remarked Harland.

“I am incredibly grateful to all the organizations and individuals that recognize the huge difficulties autistic people face in making their way in the world and who are helping us so generously to give this crew a chance to show what they can achieve.”

The crew selection is well underway ready for the initial qualifying races and comprises of both experienced yacht sailors and relative novices. The only criteria for those applying was that they had to be on the autistic spectrum.

“I applied for the Fastnet sailing opportunity because I have wanted to sail for a long time but never had the opportunities to learn,” said Seth Kneller, who is on the crew. “My autism makes it difficult to make the social connections that would help most people to get involved in the sport.

The team’s first qualifying race in preparation for the Fastnet will be the 185 nautical miles RORC North Sea Race between Harwich and Scheveningen, Netherlands, which starts on May 31.


Background: The biennial 605 nm Rolex Fastnet Race is organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) with just 7 boats sailing the first race in 1925. A record-sized fleet of 362 boats started the 2017 race, 12 more than 2015, with the 2019 race to be the 48th edition when it starts on August 3.


Source: RORC

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