"Allowing different impairment groups to compete together..."
Sailing has been used as means of transport for thousands of years, but it took off as a leisure activity around 400 years ago in Holland.
Sailing, which was first included in the Paralympic Games as a demonstration event at Atlanta 1996, is open to male and female athletes with a physical or visual impairment.
Around 28 countries currently compete in Sailing events around the world.
The sport has a classification system that assigns points between one (those with the lowest functional ability) and seven (athletes with the highest functional ability) allowing different impairment groups to compete together by limiting the crew points in a boat at any one time.
There are three boat classes at the Paralympic Games: the Single- Person Keelboat (2.4mR), the Two- Person Keelboat (SKUD18) and the Three-Person Keelboat (Sonar). Weather permitting, 11 races are sailed and final placings are determined by the accumulation of points scored in each race, with one race discarded (the boat’s worst placing). The team that incurs the fewest points in total is the winner.
Sailing is a very adaptable sport at a non-elite level, meaning a wide range of impairments can be catered for.
Additional information and useful links
History of Sailing
History of Sailing
Ships and vessels are among the oldest means of transport and have been used to travel since ancient times. Sailing as a sport, however, developed much later: the Dutch were the first to take it up as a pastime in the 17th century.
The Dutch used small sailboats that were light and easy to navigate to sail for pleasure. These boats were called jaghts – which is where the English word yacht derives from.
King Charles II introduced the sport to Britain in 1660.
International competitive sailing, or yachting as it was then known, started in the mid-19th century when members of the New York Yachting Club raced British competitors around the Isle of Wight. It then became an Olympic sport in 1900.
Sailing for athletes with an impairment began in the 1980s. In 1988, the International Handicap Sailing Committee (IHSC), which organised regattas and promoted sailing for people with a disability, was created and in 1990 sailing was accepted as a demonstration sport into the World Games for people with an impairment.
In 1991 the IHSC was recognised by the world sailing body – now known as the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and was renamed the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS).
The 1992 World Disabled Sailing Championships were held in Spain to coincide with, but not as part of, the Barcelona 1992 Paralympics. The subsequent championships experienced an extended participation beyond Western Europe and the USA and began to include teams from Australia and Armenia.
In Paralympic terms, sailing is a relatively new sport. It was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games as a demonstration sport before being given full medal status in Sydney in 2000.
There are currently three boat classes in the Paralympic Games: the Sonar, a 23ft keelboat manned by a crew of three, and the 2.4mR single-handed keelboat. A new boat class, the SKUD18, was introduced to the Paralympic program in Beijing.
National Governing Body
Royal Yachting Association (RYA)
The RYA offers people who think they can’t even get on a boat, let alone sail one, the chance to achieve the self reliance that sailing can bring and feel the exhilaration of being on the water.
Sailing is one of the very few sports in which able-bodied sailors and sailors with an impairment can participate on equal terms. Imagine the thrill of sailing for people who can feel and hear but have no sight, or of sailing a boat at speed even though they can’t walk, or of joining in a sport where deafness doesn’t matter.
The RYA already helps make these dreams a reality and continues to do so by encouraging and supporting people with impairments to take up the sport and facilitating sites to develop sailing opportunities.