Hansa Sailing Systems' principal and designer is Chris Mitchell (pictured).
In his youth, his backyard gate opened onto the wide open expanse of Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay, and here began a career in innovative marine design, fitting all sorts of vessels with sails to save rowing out over the horizon to where the bigger fish were biting. From rafts, canoes, to rowing dinghies, with his mother's broom handles for masts and bed sheets for sails, it was an apprenticeship in innovation. By the time he was twelve years old, a 2.4 metre catamaran had been designed and built, and then followed a series of off the beach sailing dinghies.
At the first opportunity he built a 25ft cruising yacht and sailed off to South East Asia where he remained on and off for 20 years. That time was spent measuring, photographing and drawing Indonesian sailing/trading craft, then designing, building and modifying yachts in Singapore and Malaysia.
During his time in South East Asia, Chris designed the forerunner of the current Hansa 2.3 and since his return to Australia in 1992, Access Sailing has been formed, staff employed and trained, manufacturing processes developed, the Access Foundation established, a network of international distributors and manufacturers created, and seven models of sailing craft in production.
Hansa Sailing Systems and Japan Universal Socio Engineering Research Institute (Japan USER), work closely to promote the concept of "sailing for everyone". In an ideal world, access should not disadvantage anyone going about their everyday life. With the rapid ageing of the world's population, we must begin to address the issues that exclude a large percentage of individuals.
The problems experienced today have come about because of the acceptance of ineffectual design. In the past, designers have ignored the needs of anyone who is not a right-handed, physically fit male, of average body size and aged between 18 and 45. By 2050, it is projected that this group will make up less than 15% of the population - so, what about the other 85% of the population who do not suit "normal" design parameters?
To reflect its goal of introducing people of all ages and from all backgrounds to sailing, in 2013 Access Sailing Systems Pty Ltd had a name change to Hansa Sailing Systems Pty Ltd and has adopted the Hansa sailing brand for its range of small keelboats and accessories.
In line with the name change, the company has launched a brand new website at: www.hansasailing.com and opened an online shop, making it easy for clubs, groups and individuals to order their new boats.
In the past 10 years, the name Access has been synonymous with disabled sailing, and now the company’s managing director, Chris Mitchell, wants to take this opportunity to re-position its products and shift its focus to the mainstream sailing market.
While the company’s products, such as its 2.3, 303, Liberty and Paralympic class SKUD 18, are all still available, they will now come under the Hansa brand.
Commenting on the name change to Hansa, Mitchell said: “This year was an ideal opportunity to update the corporate identity of the commercial and class association entities.
“It has been proved that the company and its craft are of more universal appeal and value,” he said, referring to the fact that people have previously identified the boats as being for disabled sailors.
The Hansa Swan, which has been the class insignia since 1994, represents perfect union and balance – a vehicle for the harmony of wind, sea and sailor. Its flight also symbolizes an escape from a repetitive cycle – changing the established pattern or taking a different approach – a perfect fit as the company’s new name.
The company’s association with disabled sailing came about because Mitchell’s designs are weighted to avoid capsize and because he spent many years refining the boats’ fit-outs to make it possible for people of any age and ability to go sailing without fear. As such, the boats were adopted by Sailability and other disabled sailing organisations internationally.
However, the former Access boats, which are sailed worldwide, and have world championship titles named for them, are sailed by both abled-bodied and disabled people. They are distinctly appealing to children and adult sailing novices and to those from nations where participation in sailing is low, because the sport is foreign to them.
The boats were originally conceived as an entry level craft for Asia where participation was low, and to provide a confidence-building feeling of safety and ease of use, so based on the boats’ inclusive ‘Sailing for Everyone’ potential, the name ‘Access’ was chosen for its broader meaning.
There is a misconception that the boats were 'specifically designed for disabled people'. When asked by ABC radio journalist Jane Longhurst at the 2015 Australian Hansa Class Championships what lead him to design boats that had universal applicability, designer Chris Mitchell responded: “… Originally, I lived in Singapore and I wanted to create a little sailing boat that Chinese people could use to learn to sail as an entry level craft and our little 2.3, that was the result. It wasn’t until much later, in Australia, I moved back to Australia, and disabled people took an interest in it, because it had a seat in it. The next thing, it got a bit hijacked and became a boat that some journalists like to say was specially designed for disabled people, but it never was. It was designed to introduce novices to sailing…”
Over time though, the Access branding was seen as restricting the market sectors that the boats could be successfully promoted to, and limited the potential growth of the class. This is in stark contrast to the company’s aims of growing inclusive participation in sailing as a recreation and sport, and enabling people with a disability to share in mainstream sporting and social activities.
Hansa Sailing aims to combine simplicity in design with value for money. The company strives to achieve efficient manufacturing procedures and minimal waste, provide an enriching and positive work place for its employees, and minimize negative impacts on the environment.
For further information on Hansa Sailing Systems Pty Ltd and its boats, please go to: www.hansasailing.com or phone: +61 2 4403 0595.