Before the arrival of the Volvo Ocean Race to Galway, leaving a legacy behind was sighted as the main aim for the festival. Now, with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people and millions of euro to the city, a real legacy can remain. The Even Keel project hopes to be part of that. Galwegian PJ Mealey is the face of the Even Keel project in Galway. He has spend huge chunks of the festival trying to get disabled sailors out on the water to experience the sailing buzz around the harbour.
“We got 12 people out on the water on Monday last and we got four people out last Friday. The weather didn’t play ball for us Tuesday and Wednesday, so we’ve had to reschedule until next week. “But the people who were out had a really good time and the feedback we have been getting has been incredible. It seems to have been an eye opening experience for a lot of people and I have a lot of people going to come back to me and sail in Galway Bay with the sailing club also, so that is the objective achieved,” says Mealey.
The effort of the Even Keel gang in Galway has paid of, as putting smiles on people’s faces is the aim of the project.
“Any tears I have seen are tears of joy. They have all been so enthusiastic coming down here and several people have been asking when can they go out again. Everybody just wants to do it all again it was such a great experience for them.”
Money talks, however, and the Even Keel project needs a cash injection to be a success. With all the country’s decision makers pouring into the harbour over the week, Mealey hopes that some eyes have been turned.
“The next stage is I want the people that can help us to take notice of this wonderful idea. We are going to have to talk to somebody in government and the council to get permission to build these marina and pontoons and ramps.
“There are crumbling piers all around Galway Bay; there are loads of businesses that are just dying to take up the business from disabled people. They just want a way of getting out on the water. We have a marine tourist attraction that is strangled for the lack of a few thousand euro injection, a few ramps and pontoons would make such a difference.”
Dave Rutter of The Even Keel project holds a similar view to PJ and hopes that someone will be moved by the importance of the idea.
“I would call on the decision makers here in Galway to look at the work that PJ is doing with the finances available to him and look what he is achieving,” says Rutter.
“If the facilities are put in place, we could have this place doing a roaring trade. I think it makes absolute sense to think about putting these facilities in place. A project like Even Keel can only do good things. It raises the awareness of people with disabilities that want to sail.
“It is a good return for potential sponsors to jump on board, as they are giving something to the community, but they are also getting huge marketing and media opportunities as a result. With these boats, a disabled sailor can be out racing against able-bodied sailors.
“Some of the people that came down to see us didn’t even know that sailing was available to them and they are now looking for the chance to get a taste of the sport.”
Hopefully the good work started in Galway can be continued.