We joined the Parkinson's community for the 15th Annual Twilight Sailing event on the Swan River. Find out more about the evening below and hear from the attendees.
Pictured: Phillipa and Karin stand hand-in-hand on the jetty
Sailing is an accessible, inclusive activity everyone can enjoy, regardless of ability, and the latest Twilight Sailing Event run by Parkinson’s WA illustrated that by welcoming more than 20 people from the Parkinson’s community to join the Spacesailor 27 Fleet on the Swan River on February 15 for the 15th year running.
Parkinson’s WA community member and long-time sailing attendee Philippa said she and her friend Karin had an enjoyable evening out on the river on their boat, Chain Reaction.
“Our skipper Greg and the crew had everything organised. I’m not very steady on my feet and can’t leap on to a boat so they turned it around so I could step on easily,” she explained, noting the accessibility that was provided for her.
“Once we got sailing properly, it was beautiful to be out there with all the other boats. When we got onto the river, it was a magnificent sunset, with a glass of wine, good conversation, and the fresh breeze after a hot day. You just forget everything and soak it up.”
“My friend Karin who loves physics, had a lengthy conversation about the dynamics of the wind in the sails with one of the crew and Mia, who is learning to sail by crewing. She told us about always wanting to sail but now finding a way to do it.”
Philippa recalled the apprehension she felt when she realised she was expected to participate in the workings of the boat management as a crew member.
“I was startled to have the tiller put into my hand and was told to steer us back to port. There was quite a breeze, and it was really fun, but the skipper was firm and said everybody had to learn something new,” she disclosed.
Twilight Sailing attendee Phyllis was no stranger to this process and during her fourth year, she relished in the chance to take ownership of her vessel King Canute, alongside Skipper Matt and Crew Adrian.
Pictured: Phyllis looks over her shoulder on King Canute
“It was great getting out on the water again and I liked learning more about sailing this time,” she said.
“Talking to the skippers and crew of the yacht was a great experience and meeting other parky's (people with Parkinson’s) and learning about their journey was a highlight for me. It was also extremely relaxing.”
When asked about the benefit of having events like the Twilight Sail, Phyllis said it took people out of their comfort zone and challenged them in a good way.
“The sail allows us to meet up with other people with Parkinson’s in a casual and non-medical environment, where we can socialise with people we would not normally meet.”
As the King Canute vessel bopped along the water with the waves lapping at the side, Skipper Matt Rose said the most enjoyable part of the event was introducing people from all walks of life to the joy of sailing.
“I get a real kick out of seeing the smiles, the active participation, and the realisation of how good it is to go sailing and be connected with the elements of nature in our beautiful surroundings,” he explained as he adjusted the tiller to correct the steering as the boat dipped in the current.
Pictured: Skipper Matt Rose holds the tiller on the King Canute vessel
Coming off the back of a marathon southwest trip and an afternoon sail that day, Matt spoke about his love for the sport.
“We try to get out a few times a week where we can leave all the stress behind from our jobs and lives and just ‘be’ on the water,” he said.
“Sailing is many activities in one, when you consider relaxed twilights, serious racing, the endurance of ocean voyages, cruising, single-handed, double-handed or as part of a full crew. It is truly a sport for all ages and abilities.”
“You can sail from a very young age to your elderly years and still be learning every time you go for a sail. It is a good, clean, healthy sport which contributes to good physical and mental health. Sailing is more accessible to the average person than is realised. It is a myth that it is an elite sport.”
We were lucky to have Skippers such as Matt who provided their boat, time and energy to facilitating such a fantastic event and he echoed that sentiment through his shared love of the sport.
“Personally, I find it a privilege to introduce people to sailing and am grateful to have the opportunity to share this joy with the community. It is incumbent on those of us that know how good it is and the great resources that we have available to us to share and spread the word,” he expressed empathically.
Twilight Sailing Event Manager and Parkinson’s WA Office Manager, Toby Gummer who rode on the Random Times vessel, said it was a wonderful evening, where once again, we had perfect weather and sailing conditions.
Pictured: the community enjoy their evening on Random Times
“It was great to see some new faces and regular sailors from the Parkinson's community alongside their friends and family and the skippers who volunteered,” he said.
“On the 15th year, it was nice to see the same excitement, and joy for this event as the community came out on the water and spent time together, connecting and bonding over shared interests.”
“It was excellent seeing young 14-year-old skipper Zach take on leadership, as he welcomed the Parkinson's community and Parkinson’s Nurse Specialist Jo, onto his boat, Liberty, which we were lucky to have on our list.”
Toby explained the significance of Liberty being used in this event, 15 years on, and the connection between Parkinson’s WA.
“Liberty was once owned by Amanda Wilmott and Peter Wilmott who was her father. Amanda's father had Parkinson's and he started the whole idea of Twilight Sailing with PWA. Amanda raced the boat before her dad passed away, and then later on, the boat changed hands to Zach's family and continued to be raced in the event. I thought that was a pretty interesting conversation point to share with the attendees,” he said with a smile.
Parkinson’s Nurse Specialist Jo had attended the event for the past 10 years and each year she rode on Liberty alongside Peter and Amanda and their family and she said it was important to her to honour their memory and sail on their boat one more time after the vessel changed hands.
“As we look to the future of the event, it is wonderful to reminisce about what was, what is to come and acknowledging the history of the connection between the South of Perth Yacht Club and Parkinson’s WA,” she said.
“I felt like we were riding with Peter, even though he wasn’t with us. Peter always had the tiller and adjusted the sails, and it was nice to see Zach’s hadn’t made many changes to the boat over the years. It’s a lovely old boat and has quite a bit of history which belongs to all of us.”
Pictured: Liberty sails along the Swan
Parkinson’s WA Board President John McDonald said that on behalf of the Board and the Parkinson’s community, he expressed his heartfelt appreciation for the unwavering support provided by the South of Perth Yacht Club along with Food and Beverage Manager and the staff, and the Skippers and Crew of the Spacesailer 27 Fleet and Flag Officers (including Commodore Troy Dalglish and Rear Commodore Regatta Victoria Blanckensee) who donated their time and boats to take everyone out on the Swan River.
“This year marks the 15th year that this annual event has taken place, and we could not have reached this milestone without your continued support,” he said.
“The Twilight Sailing evening is an exceptional event, providing our members and their partners/carers with a unique and exciting opportunity that allows them to move beyond their comfort zones and experience the pleasures of participating in new activities.”
We look forward to another wonderful event next year in 2024, as we embrace our community and sail together for Parkinson’s.
Words and photos by Jacqui O’Leary