Lachlan Clear from Sydney, is NSW’s only Deaf Sailor with Cerebral Palsy. From the age of seven months old, Lachlan has been sailing with his father at Middle Harbour Yacht Club (MHYC) and he still continue to sail today.
In 2005, he joined Sailability – a Sailing program designed for those with disabilities. He travelled on the Access 303* alone when he was only 15 years old.
Some of Lachlan’s sailing adventures saw him compete in the Australian Championship, travel to the World Championship in England and sail on the tall ship from Fremantle (VIC) to Adelaide.
David Staley, Sailing Manager for Middle Harbour Yacht Club (MHYC), first met Lachlan in 2010. He was impressed with Lachlan’s determination in sailing. “I was keen to have a team from the club competing at the 2018 Australian Hansa Class Championships being sailed at Kogarah Bay,” said Staley.
“Lachlan was one of the first people to put his hand up, but unfortunately did not have much opportunity to train and prepare for the event. In the first race of the championships however, Lachlan surprised everyone (including some very experienced competitors) with his extraordinary speed when he took a clear win.”
“[He] went on to finish third overall and the first sailor with a disability, also claiming the Open NSW Liberty Championship along the way. The MHYC team had a very successful regatta at Kogarah and had a lot of fun,” said Staley.
As a result, Lachlan won first place for NSW Championship and was awarded for the NSW Disabled Sailor of the Year (2018). This award is considered one of the huge recognitions in the Sailing community.
When asked about facing hurdles in terms of communicating with Lachlan, Mr Staley affirm that a simple issue could’ve been easily resolved if officials take the time to understand what the issue is. He recalls an occasion that gave him an eye-opener in the importance of understanding deaf sailors who have limited access to spoken language and communicate in Auslan.
“Officials can be under a lot of pressure with competing demands. Lachlan was ashore and quite agitated about a racing rules issue that had not been sorted out. This was one [demand]. He used a combination of sketches and text on his phone to explain the problem which, in the end, was not too difficult to resolve.”
“I was an official, … it was important for me to just stop what I was doing, slow down and take the time to understand what the issue was. Being ready to make time saved a lot of frustration and additional problems,” said Staley.
Today Lachlan Clear is now 30 years old and with inspiration from the Deaf Sailing QLD club’s success since its recent establishment, Lachlan set up a new Sailing club for NSW. It is now known as Deaf Sailing NSW, currently supported by Committees. Members of the club will frequent Lachlan’s local yacht club, the MHYC, but members are also encouraged to continue honing their sailing skills at their own local yacht clubs if they live far.
As a new affiliate under NSW Deaf Sports, Deaf Sailing NSW along with Deaf Sailing QLD, are now hoping to be participating in hosting a demonstration event at Deaf Sports Australia’s national event – the 2022 Australian Deaf Games. This will take place in Newcastle, NSW in April 2022. The intentions are to generate interest in sailing, grow participation numbers and maintain a strong presence in providing support where access, inclusivity and advocacy is available for all deaf and hard of hearing sailors.
Media contact Lauren Townsend
Media & Communications Liaison Officer
Deaf Sports Australia has an initiative specifically designed for encourage participation and inclusivity of deaf athletes in sports. This is called the Active Deaf Kids Program (ADK). More information can be found here.
Access 303 is commonly known as the Hansa 303, a dinghy specifically designed for those who wish to take their sailing more seriously.