We have a dream…
A dream of a round the world voyage completed by a boy with Down syndrome.
And we decided to make this dream come true.
“Sun Child Sailing” is a private yachting project aimed at making sea travel and active lifestyles popular among children with disabilities.
Why did we call our project “Sun Child Sailing”? Children with Down syndrome are called Sun Child and therefore the choice of name seemed obvious.
This project was created owing to my son Roman who was born with this diagnosis.
Our initial plans involved just local sailing, we really couldn’t comprehend that a kid with Down syndrome could conquer the open sea. The bleak outlook conveyed by our domestic medicine left us with a strong sense of fear for our son, however by the time Roman was 7 years old we realised that he had nothing in common with the image drawn by doctors. He now attends regular classes and continues to surprise everyone with the speed at which he learns and develops new skills as well as numerous other talents. In general, Roman is growing up as a positive-thinking child, happy to share his emotions and love with those close to him. Throughout all of this, Roman has stayed true to his strong passion for sailing and his immense love of the sea!
In 2017 we came to realise that the possibility of a circumnavigation was a realistic goal, but felt that such a trip should not be restricted just to ourselves, such a voyage would not be that interesting… it should include others…. many others. So was conceived a totally crazy idea that later transformed into the mission – to use our personal example to prove to others that children with special developmental needs can sail as ordinary people and maybe even better than ordinary people.
We decided to route our worldwide expedition in such a way that we would have several ports of call in each country that we visited. In doing so, we sought to provide parents with special children with the opportunity to embark on short sailing journeys with us.
We are absolutely convinced that the opportunity of a trip on a sailing yacht, operating under a mixed crew of children and adults, offer huge benefits to children and a unique chance of socializing in an atmosphere endorsing the feelings of security and inclusion . Constant communication and teamwork have a positive impact on developing speaking and thinking skills. It is very important that the child, while participating in the yacht control, is given the opportunity to make decisions independently and to learn and understand the consequence of such decisions. Furthermore, the yacht’s constant motion develops and improves coordination, whilst moving on the open deck as well as in the interior spaces. The operating of winches, locks, running rigging, and weaving sea knots gives sound improvement to the large and fine motor skills. The duration of these short trips is designed to ensure that the children are not fatigued, but remain energised throughout and will acquire emotions that will bolster their self-confidence and would strengthen the desire to continue sailing .
During the sailing trip it is very important for us to show the public character and the social significance of the project. To fulfil this need, we plan to use social media for blogging and for the posting of photographic and video reports to attract the attention of those who are presently, or who are going to become parents of special children in the future. We want to show these children in a completely different light and this information will give a higher understanding of the abilities, hidden talents and potential of such children. To create a sense of positivity about children with such conditions, will represent a huge victory massive step forward, not only for the parents, but for us as well. Our mission is not just to teach, but also to study and on the basis of this acquired knowledge, we want to create methods for the development of special children. Methods that would give parents hope and would keep these children in families.
The boat type was chosen long ago and this choice was directly influenced by Roman. At the end of 2016, Roman started attending classes in the circus studio “Pakitan” where we had a unique opportunity to watch children with Down syndrome. The children attending these classes all display differing characteristics, each of them having special development features. I was interested to observe such aspects as movement coordination, speed of reaction, behavior, communication and interaction between themselves, with the parents and with the “ordinary” kids. At this very moment our “tortures of choice” between monohull and catamaran began.
The sea trip with our son on board together with kids with different diagnoses proved very useful and informative. However, the turning point which made us give up the idea of monohull sailing came during a week long trip undertaken on 46 feet yacht which was operated by a crew of four adults and three kids with Down syndrome, aged 4 to 9. This week, for reasons outlined below, proved decisive in the choice of vessel preferred for the project.
Of course the monohull yacht would appear ideal for the world cruise, but for all its advantages, it has one significant drawback. It is not as convenient, nór as comfortable as a catamaran for people with developmental disabilities, especially for people with disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our project involves weekly crew replenishment with new kids and therefore the availability of four cabins with sanitary units is very important. Separate cabins located at a distance from each other and equipped with a shower and toilet represent personal areas of hygiene and comfort. In addition to this, a spacious saloon and rain-protected cockpit are great for joint activities and relaxation , and large aisles between them are very important for kids in wheelchairs. One more advantage of the catamaran is the shallow draft design feature, which allows the yacht to navigate in shallow water and to approach close to the coastline. During the search for “our” boat we surfed through hundreds of catamaran reviews starting from late 80’s to the present time. It was clear that making the correct choice of vessel was imperative to our project. The fundamental reason why the choice of boat needed to be right is firstly, that our project is non-commercial, and during our trip we will welcome on board families with special children without any charge for “charter”. Secondly, we will not be able to radically convert or take a principally different boat during the trip. So the choice of the “Privilege” brand and of the boat’s size was strategically planned . The catamarans of this shipyard were built in line with the requirements for “Blue Water Cruising” – in other words, these catamarans were created for sailing in open sea and world cruises.
The route that we will follow is preliminary split into 7 stages, during which we will sail a distance of approximately 60 000 nautical miles. During the cruise we will visit around 40 countries, with and estimated timeframe for the cruise period of about 5 years.
The team of “Sun Child Sailing” and personally Denis Toskin – the yacht’s skipper, the project’s founder and the father of Sunny Roman, are open for collaboration with commercial and non-commercial organizations.
We are seeking sponsors for the project implementation and are ready to discuss the terms of cooperation for the mutual benefit.
It would be our pleasure to welcome you on board!