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At Christmas, it is the tradition at RHS that we raise funds for a local children’s charity that we also support with practical assistance.

The Woolverstone Project is a RYA Sailability Training Centre which provides sailing opportunities and tuition for those with physical and learning disabilities at Alton Water and on the River Orwell at Woolverstone.

The Youth Section meets on Thursday evenings from April to October at the project’s sailing centre at Alton Water. Young people aged 7 to 18 participate in two hours of sailing, with regular attendance numbers around twelve children, who are accompanied by their parents and carers.

They are taken out and taught to sail in the specially designed Access Dinghies. These very stable boats have weighted and hollow centre boards that fill with water when lowered, allowing the dinghies to sail on the heel like keel boats. The crew sit in canvas seats facing forward, steering with a joystick, with the control lines for the sails in front of them.

The physically able children board from and disembark on the pontoon. There is a hoist to enable those with limited mobility to get in and out of a dinghy on its trolley – they are launched from and brought ashore on the slipway.

The RHS support team comprises ten students who assist the adult volunteers and professional instructors with the launching and recovery of the Access Dinghies and those who wish may join in with the sailing. Those not sailing spend their time on shore talking with children who are waiting to sail and with their parents.

In recent years, RHS Sixth Form Pupils who have qualified as dinghy instructors have given their time and extended their experience by teaching the children with disabilities to sail.

The money raised from the RHS Christmas charity day will be used by the youth section of the Woolverstone Project to purchase weatherproof clothing and buoyancy aids. Any additional proceeds will be given to the appeal fund for a new dinghy.

The Royal Hospital School is a coeducational boarding and day school for 11 to 18 years olds set in 200 acres of Suffolk countryside overlooking the River Stour. http://www.royalhospitalschool.org