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Blind Match Racing – We still hear "how does that work?"

Another bounce back after lockdown. During lockdown we had great fun with our introduction to blind match racing, with a big thanks to Liz Baylis and Dave Perry for their amazing support.

You’ll read in other news stories on our page about GBR’s great success at world level in this element of blind sailing. It truly highlights the level and skills that blind sailors have and are developing.

For those that don’t know – it’s all done with sound. Three buoys make up the start line and windward mark, and then the two boats have sound boxes on them indicating which tack they’re on. There’s a link below to how it works with Liz Baylis and some of the GBR team.

But back to our two open weekends. We’re very lucky to have a great volunteer team behind us that have the same passion for match racing as some of our blind sailors. We’ve also added Emma Wrixon, an RYA coach, to the team and a keen match racing sailor so a great addition to our volunteering team.

The first weekend was a great intro to working onshore, and then we took it out on the water, where I’ll say now something that seems relatively simple onshore turns into a large moving game of chess, but with lots of fun. We’d just had a great weekend with Chris Watts on rules, which is key to becoming a match racer - the quick thinking and positioning of the boat to avoiding penalties as this also looks to give your fellow competitor a penalty.

We worked from the start, and that is the 7-minute gun to the 4 minute gun crossing the H and over the line from the on course side. I can hear you say “sounds simple!!” Now do it with limited or no sight, where even knowing the count down time is a challenge. We worked through boat positioning and the rules using simple electrical tape and model boats to put the picture in the minds of our sailors. We then moved to using our sound buoys on shore with our teams holding on to PVC pipes, using them as the main sail.

A tricky task but it gave everyone the time to think “how do I control the boat get to the line at the right time?” The key for our sailors knows where the wind is coming from, and any changes this helps with timing and correct entry into the start. As a charity, we’re extremely proud of all our sailors but especially those that are deaf blind. They work hard on their communication and hard to listen out for the buoys. Once we had laid the foundations, it was out on to the water for the rest of the weekend.

Our first exercise was entry from the 7 to the 4 minute and it was great to watch. You could hear the thinking going on in the boats, the only difference being with the PVC pipes you could stop and think. On the water, all the sailors had to move and adjust. It was then back ashore to talk about how it had gone, and the different feelings they’d experienced. All were excited about the journey, and although some found it overwhelming, it was a great journey ahead. The key take aways for all into the next day were to keep the boat moving and communication.

For those reading, for the first time Saturday night was a time for us to get together and catch up. It’s also a time we help each other, with either new technology or a new experience but it’s always a great laugh.

Sunday, slightly more breeze but today we were looking more a boat handling as this is key in any race especially in a match race keeping the boat moving and the ability to stop and start. We had great chats about the gib a sail often forgotten and just pulled in out, we spent some time looking at the feel and how the VI crew can support the blind helm and become a great team keeping the boat moving. We had great fun chasing each other round the track with the sighted volunteer there for safety but keeping quiet, letting the VI sailors drive the boat.

Looking around at the end of the day there was a lot of tiered sailors but happy ones.

More Blind Match Racing to follow later this year.


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