The Gemini Sailing Project was set up in 1986 to take adults with severe learning disabilities sail training. It is a non-profit making organisation run totally on a voluntary basis.
Four people nurtured the original seed of an idea into fruition. Chris Matthews remains from the original group and continues to organise the annual trips. Pat Sawyer has passed over her responsibilities to Stephen Tobut who gallantly offered to take on the central role of crew organiser.
Frank Pitts keeps us all in check by fulfilling the invaluable role of treasurer.
From the onset, the success of the Gemini Project has relied on the ongoing support of the Rona Sailing Project whose boats we charter for the trips
Four trips each year are organised, two in the spring and a further two in the autumn. The crew join the boat at the Universal Marina at 11.00 am on day one and are back at the mooring ready to go home by 4.30 pm on day four.
The destinations will vary on weather and tide, but a typical trip will go to Cowes and/or Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth Harbour, Gosport and Southampton Water. The aim is not to go far but to provide the experience of life on board a large boat and as many sailing experiences as possible within the time frame.
It is an adventure rather than a holiday, with all crew being expected to join in with life on board and to help in the galley as well as on deck.
Safety is of paramount importance. To this end, life jackets and safety harnesses are worn by crew members while they are on deck.
A maximum of 9 adults with learning disabilities go on each trip as crew members. We have taken people as young as 17 and as old as 82 years of age. The major criteria are that they are looking for an adventure and are willing to try something new. The only restrictions we place on health is that people are fully ambulant, are able to cater for their basic personal needs and do not need medical care (other than the distribution of medicines).
The trips sail with a 1:1 ratio. The skipper and mate are both highly qualified yachtmasters. There are also two other competent sailors who know the boat and are associated with the Rona Sailing Project
The other key person is the 'advisor'. The advisor is someone who has personal or professional experience of relating to people with learning disabilities and has previous experience of being a helper on Gemini. The role of the advisor is to monitor that the day to day needs of the crew are maintained and to advise and support helpers where appropriate.
The remainder of the team is made up from people from all walks of life and degrees of experience. The key thing is that all helpers work together drawing on each other's strengths and contributions to making a safe, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable trip for everyone.
The cost is £130 per crew member. This is an inclusive fee of all accommodation, sailing tuition, insurance and meals, including one meal out at a restaurant. The only extra money needed is some cash for drinks ashore and any gifts that an individual might wish to purchase.
Helpers are asked to pay £40 in payment for all food and accommodation for the trip.
The trips are covered by the insurance policy held by the Rona Sailing Project.