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Gold At The Blind World Match Racing Championships

GBR Blind Sailing held intense match racing training this winter and it has paid off.

Five members of the team set off for Sheboygan with high hopes and also looking forward to a week of training with Dave Perry.

It is true to say Dave opening words backed up the training focus in the UK, know how to sail the boat fast and control the boat in slow mode but your own skills being the best they can doing your role with out thinking.

Dave Perry Shares Experience Coaching Blind Match Racers

Recently I was fortunate to have the opportunity to run a North U Match Racing Clinic for the vision impaired sailors preparing for the 2016 World Sailing Blind Match Racing World Championship, being held at the Sheboygan Yacht Club in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, September 21-25, 2016, and sponsored by Sail Sheboygan and SEAS. Four teams participated, coming from California, Canada, Great Britain, and a team composed of sailors from Massachusetts and Sheboygan. Though each team had a sighted coach, they race with no sighted person on board. Truly amazing!

The clinic was in the Sonars they are racing in the Worlds, with three sailors to a boat. The skipper is required to be 100% blind, and the two others can have varying degrees of vision impairment. They had some goggles I could wear to experience what their vision ability was like. One common view is like looking through wax paper. You can make out shades and rough shapes, but there is no clarity. The other is like looking down a straw, but the straw is in a different place in each eye. They can see what they see clearly, but it is tiny. And they have no depth perception. Plus, if they lose sight of it, it takes them a while to search around to find it again.

They use two marks to form their starting line, each making a unique sound, and a windward mark with its own sound. They sail the traditional match racing course (W-L-W-Finish), but use the pin end of the starting line as the leeward mark. Each boat has a noise maker which makes a different sound on each tack.

In addition to the sounds of the marks, they have watches that beep and vibrate, and they are talking with each other as normal, so their world onboard is very loud! This is just one of their challenges. Another one is keeping track of where they are. If they lose track of the marks, they can get quite lost. And of course they need to be able to maintain the point of sail on which they want to sail. All this while trying to beat the other boat across the finishing line!

We spent most our time talking boat handling, speed and match racing tactics just like at all my other match racing clinics. We brainstormed ideas to address their challenges, and we had solid three hour training sessions on the water filled with drills, practice starts and races, and lots of feedback. We did a session about the Sonar on the dock, and we simulated the prestart and sailing the course on land, using the marks and doing the walk-throughs in real time. On the water, they were good at sailing the correct angles, the skippers feeling the wind on their heads, the angle of heel, and hearing the boat go through the water, and the trimmers feeling the actual sail and the angle of the boom.

What I loved the most was that every sailor and team was committed to improving, and to sharing their own experiences for the benefit of the others. Everyone’s attitude was that they were a group of sailors trying to get better at sailing and match racing, and their vision was just part of the puzzle to solve to become more successful. Each one of them loves sailing and being out on the water, and the challenge of racing. No different than any of us who love the sport.

To go sailing and racing, all these vision impaired sailors need is an invitation or some support from someone to be included in that person’s sailing experience. My experience with this racing community could not have been more positive. I encourage others to seek out the same positive experience by reaching out and including them as well. It is truly a win-win situation!

Race Reports

Opening Of The Joint Blind and Women's World Match Racing Championships

For the first time thanks to the hard work of Liz Baylis and the support of all at SEAS and Sheboygan Yacht Club, the joint World Championships Opened. It was great to see sailors from both events walk in holding their country flags showing support and a guide to each other.

There will be two courses but all sailors meeting on shore with the women providing experience and knowledge to the blind sailors.

GBR had a good practice day getting a feel for the course area, and would like to say thank you to AQL, and Adidas Sailing, Musto and Dubary for helping the team have the right kit to sail at this level.

Both events start at 10.00 today

Wind Was Up And Team GBR Sail Strong at the 2016 Blind World Championships.

After two days of racing being cancelled, all teams were pleased to get out on the water and start racing.

The course was set to the Starboard side of the harbour giving competitors some relief from the northerly 10-12 knots of breeze which was coursing some confusing waves.

With five country's from around the world taking part putting together their training in their home country and the clinic held by Dave Perry it was great to see all boats sailing well around the course and gaining penalties on each other.

GBR went into the competition after training hard at weekends together at UKSA and Ark Sailing with sighted support from Ian Shirra. GBR lead in all their flights in the first round robbin of the completion battering with each country in the pre-start in hope to gain a penalty.

Blind Match Racing is all done by using acoustic sounds and with the waves moving up and down all teams had to work hard to focus on the marks. Lucy from team GBR said "it was great to get out on the water and start racing the first race always puts the nerves at ease. The conditions were good steady breeze but with the waves coming in all directions and all sizes we had to work hard on timing into the line along with your approach to the marks as a team to ensure we were not caught out and bounced the wrong side of the mark. It was great to see the improvements made by all countries over the last two years and with some great opportunities to talk about match racing and sailing in general, it will give everyone lots of great ideas to take away with them to practice for future events.

GBR Take Gold at the 2016 Blind World Match Racing Championships.

After a packed two days of racing GBR Lucy Hodges, Vicki Sheen and Liam Cattermole take Gold loosing one race to Canada's David Brown, Laura Cammidge and Brian Arthur who took Silver having only lost to GBR though out.

The conditions were steady with the wind dropping off through out the day but the waves staying strong making helming key staying up on the breeze.

All five teams from around the World showed great improvement in conditions that meant the noise of the Bouys was sometimes hidden by the waves so staying in the centre of the course was key.

The petite final was won by USA1 kris Scheppe, Scott Ford and Walter Raineri putting in a great performance against Israeli team, gaining third with two clean wins.

The team would like to say a big thank you to all at the event and most of all sighted support Ian Shirra and for AQL for making this all possible.

event website:

Blind Sailing

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