A CHARITY in Helensburgh set up to introduce people with autism to the joys and benefits of sailing is celebrating the success of its most popular event so far.

Autism on the Water’s sailing day at Rhu Marina saw around 120 people – including autistic people and their families and carers - take to the sea for 45-minute slots on Saturday, May 6.

The event is one of several that the charity has organised since it was founded by Helensburgh resident Murray MacDonald in 2016, and has been their most popular so far – with most days having a turnout of 20 to 30 people.

The sailing days aim to help people who are anywhere on the autistic spectrum develop their confidence, social skills, and problem solving.

Organiser Kirsty Pierce said: “Sailing is for people with all elements of the spectrum and means different things to different people.

“Some like to sit quietly being soothed by the rocking of the boat, while others prefer to get more involved taking a turn of steering or helping with the rigging.

“Getting out on the water helps with social skills, confidence and problem solving which they may have trouble with.”

Helensburgh Advertiser: Autism on the Water's yacht ‘Confidence’Autism on the Water's yacht ‘Confidence’ (Image: Autism on the Water)

Murray and Kirsty were helped by volunteers Brian and Lisa Munro, Noel, Helen and Eilidh Johnston, Wells Grogan, Cameron Glendinning, alongside Coast Watch members Kay Johnstone, Lee Gallagher and Jaydon Whit.

Guests were also treated to a barbecue with food donated from local butchers Alexander Sommerville and Callaghan.

Read more: Autism on the Water organises Rhu Marina sailing day

For autistic people, sailing can have many different benefits as for some it can be calking and act as stress relief, but others can find the activity exciting.

Eilidh Johnston, who attended the day on Saturday, has ventured into racing and is preparing to enter the Kip Regatta on May 13 and 14.

Kirsty added: “Sailing takes [autistic people] away from distractions that overwhelm, allowing them to have peace and focus on the task in hand.

“For others, like Eilidh, they are now part of a racing team and she has entered the Kip Regatta for this year.”

Murray launched the charity almost seven years ago, and has since seen it grow to the point where it has a Scotland-wide reputation and has helped almost 500 people with autism experience the benefits of sailing.

Murray’s work resulted in him being only one of 500 people in the UK honoured with a Coronation Champion Award.

He was the only volunteer to be given the award from the Helensburgh and Lomond area.

Nominees were judged by a panel comprised of volunteering experts, celebrities and academics and headed by the Queen Consort.

The winners were decided based on their impact, dedication, and how inspirational they are to their communities.

To learn more about Autism on the Water, visit: www.autismonthewater.co.uk.