History

In Canada the first "adapted" sailboat was introduced during Expo 86 in Vancouver, when the United Kingdom's Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, donated a 15-foot Sunbird to Rick Hansen, Canada's "Man in Motion". He in turn asked Sam Sullivan, a Vancouver quadriplegic, to develop a sailing program for the mobility impaired. In 1994 René Dallaire, a Quebec quadriplegic following a downhill ski accident, received a phone call from Sam Sullivan inviting him to come to Vancouver to try a sailboat specifically designed for people with the same physical limitations.  That's where René discovered the "sip 'n puff" technology that allows one to control a sailboat using your breath.  It was also where René discovered the social aspect and friendly atmosphere of a yacht club and he was hooked!

René returned to Montreal determined to start a sailing program for people with physical disabilities.  The Vancouver program lent him a Sunbird and the first trials took place in the Parc des îles near Montreal, as well as on Lake Beauport near Quebec City and in Pointe-Claire.  In 1996 Pointe-Claire Yacht Club agreed to become AQVA's host club in the Montreal area. 

Over the years the Sunbird has been replaced by the Martin 16, a Canadian sailboat designed specifically for people with mobility impairments.  Adapted sailing programs started up in Three-Rivers, Quebec City and Sherbrooke.  Today these programs are only offered in Montreal and Sherbrooke.  The Montreal program has rapidly expanded and now has 5 Martin 16's, a 2.4mR (Paralympic class sailboat) and a coach boat.  Each summer more than 200 people take part in AQVA's activities.  It is hoped that in the future new adapted sailing programs will be started in other parts of the province.