Westbere Sailing opportunities

The Lake

Where we sail

WSO operates on the spectacularly beautiful Westbere Lake near Canterbury in East Kent. The site is owned by the Brett Group, for whose support we are most grateful.
As well as being an area of outstanding natural beauty, the lake also has special scientific status both here in the UK and in Europe.
Our members regularly see a whole host of wildlife from dragonflies to herons, leaping fish to grebes and swans, and even the occasional kingfisher!
At WSO we believe that the lake itself is as important a part of the life enhancing experience as being in a boat.
The facilities at the lake are shared with the sailors of our host club, Westbere Frostbite Sailing Association and the water is shared with members of the rowing and angling clubs.

David James MBE

Westbere Sailing Opportunities (WSO) is a registered charity and RYA Sailability Centre of Excellence that was founded by the late David James MBE in 2001, with the sole purpose of giving an experience of sailing to people of all ages with disabilities. People who through some physical disability, learning difficulty, or other condition might not otherwise be able to get on the water and enjoy sailing. WSO is about making it happen. At Westbere we don’t see a disability, just a person who wants to get on the water and have some fun. Some people might need a little more help than others, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

Our Aim

We aim to provide a fun, safe and life enhancing experience for all our visitors
  • we want all to enjoy the water

  • all volunteers are trained and we have RIB support boats on the water at all times

  • at our beautiful lake

  • make new friends


The Fleet - The Team - FAQ's


These boats are skippered by one of our experienced sailors so if you wish you can simply sit back and enjoy the ride. As your confidence grows, you might like to take control of the sheets (the ropes that control the sails) or even try your hand at the helm (steering). The Whammels are particularly good for the less mobile members, who can be hoisted into the boat and if necessary be accommodated comfortably on beanbags.


If you already have some knowledge of sailing, you might like to have some one-to-one tuition in a Wayfarer


Also available are 3 Tracer boats, these are 17-foot keel boats. One has been adapted so that it can be sailed by “sip and puff” or joystick control systems and a second Tracer with central seating and lever steering enabling individuals with very limited physical mobility to experience dingy sailing. We also have the use a third, unmodified Tracer.

Walker Bay

If you already have some knowledge of sailing, you might like to have some one-to-one tuition in a Wayfarer or take out one of our five Walker bay dinghies. These ten-foot dinghies have an inflatable collar which makes them virtually capsize-proof.


How much does it cost?

Right, let’s get the unpleasant one out the way first! We try and keep all our costs down to a minimum and a year’s individual membership will cost you just £20. This will enable you to come and sail with us up to six times. For a club, school, residential or day centre, the cost is either £236 for a group of 7 – 12 people or £128 for a group of up to 6. This includes membership and will allow the group plus their carers to have six great sessions on the water. We won’t charge if you just want to come and check us out before you join. If you only want one session, or feel that six sessions are not enough, give us a call to discuss other options.

What if it rains?

We provide waterproof jackets and trousers, and a little bit of rain doesn’t normally spoil the fun. The only things that will keep us off the water are high winds and of course thunder and lightning.

How long is a session?

Our sessions are normally two hours long and run from 10.00hrs – 12.00hrs or 12.30hrs – 14.30hrs, though we can be a little flexible…

When do we operate?

We are at the lake most Thursdays and Fridays from April to the end of October.

Do I need any special clothing?

No, anything that is comfortable is OK. Tracksuits or jogging style trousers are ideal, but any casual trousers, jeans, tee-shirts and sweatshirts or fleeces are fine. An old pair of trainers would be great, but any flat shoes with a non-slip sole will do (apart from flip-flops). It will always feel cooler on the water, so it is a good idea to bring an extra layer. A change of clothes is also a good idea – just in case. Oh, and of course, we will provide you with a lifejacket!

What about safety?

At WSO we take safety very seriously. if you would like to see a copy of our Code of Practice, please, just ask.

How do I get in the boat?

If you have good mobility, you can simply walk along our pontoon and step into the boat. If you are in a wheelchair, we have an Oxford Hoist and will liaise with you or your carer to ensure you are safely lifted from your chair straight into the boat. If neither of these options sound appropriate to you, then give us a call as we can normally work something out. Whatever happens, you won’t have to get your feet wet!

The Team

WSO is run by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of about forty volunteers, some of whom started as sailing members. While some have countless years experience in sailing, and others have spent many years in the caring professions, all our volunteers are committed to making your time at Westbere as safe and as much fun as possible.
New volunteers are always welcome, so if you think you can help, get in touch.
2016/17 Membership is £20


from some of our thank you letters...