Blind Sailing Step Onboard with Tigress Racing.
2021 restrictions slowly lifted and Blind Sailing UK joined partnership Tigress Racing, run by Susan Glenny. Blind Sailing in 2021 was looking for new challenges, working as a team and putting in practise some of the skills learnt during the past couple of years whereas a charity, we had mainly been on line.
Commodore Lucy Hodges had met Susan a few years ago and approached Susan with a call that was, “I have an idea I want to give our sailors a chance to learn the roles of a larger racing boat and the importance of working as a team. I have a vision of all key roles being undertaken by a blind sailor” Susan reply was “my aim for Tigress Racing is to create inclusive sailing so working as a team I can see no reason why not”
Two dates were set and with Susan and Lucy’s aim was to select a team to represent Tigress Racing and Blind Sailing at a UK regatta later in the year. Both days on the water were perfect in fact the term could have been Champlain sailing, blue sky’s steady breeze enough to challenge.
It is thanks to our volunteers for giving up the time to make all these events happen and again pass on their knowledge, both days started on board Olympia’s Tigress a First 40, with an introduction to the boat and each other familiarisation is key but very quickly we were out on the water and putting it into practise. Just like a race team each sailor was given a role onboard from bow to stern the VI’s crewed.
Up wind bought challenges of trust, balance and sailing fitness from crossing the coach roof to trusting your footing and putting your weight over the winch and grinding in the jib, then getting back up to the high side and out on the rail and as you pass the lazy winch making sure it is made of for the next tack. This was amazing to see for some of our sailors getting right out on the rail and feeling the lift and speed of the boat was a whole new feel.
Downwind were more magic happen and exceeded what Lucy thought the team could do. With sighted volunteer Adam Parry running the bow his open-minded coaching saw on the Sharon Grennan B1, tripping the pole and putting in the new guy all through feel, back by Charlie Griffiths B4 on the mast controlling the pole back to Kate on the winches trimming and controlling the pole. Each gybe was smooth and controlled with teamwork from bow to stern.
After two days of training Susan and the Blind Sailing team agreed it was achievable to enter the Royal Southern Summer Series mid-September.
This story will continue but we want to leave the final words with Kate Healey on of our B1 sailors and to Susan who without her support these opportunities would not be happening.
Kate Healey look back “I always get anxious before trying something new but quite often find that I have no need to feel this way. This experience was another one of those days where I really didn’t need to worry. I felt that I lacked the required experience, but this was not the case at all.
Everyone was made to feel welcome, and it didn’t matter how much experience we had because we all worked as a team and I achieved things I really didn’t think I’d ever be able to do. One of these was sitting over the side like you do when you’re racing a yacht. I didn’t feel I had the strength or stamina to be able to do this confidently and move myself around the boat as quickly and as efficiently as I thought was needed. It turned out, I was fine and could do everything I was asked to do.
I think for me my fitness as well as my confidence has grown, and this played a large part in me having more self-belief in my own abilities. I really enjoyed having to scramble across the coach roof from one side to the other as we tack and also being able to work the winches from the correct position helped me to carry out the task more efficiently. Since my first ever taster session of sailing with Blind Sailing UK, I have always wanted to get into big boat racing and look forward to the future.
Final words from Susan “I’ve interacted with Lucy extensively over the past months and sailing with her and her blind sailing group has been an inspiration. We take so much for granted about our senses as able bodied sailors but working with Lucy and all the guys and girls at blind sailing has TRULY made me realise how little of our skills as sailors are sight related, which I guess we know. The freedom I have seen displayed by the blind sailors whilst working with them and watching them over the past few weeks is utterly humbling. Sailing, the water, the wind and the environment is a place where blind sailors can utilise the hypertensive “extra sensory” skills they possess and the satisfaction that comes from observing that empowerment in another person is something else! These groups have run down wind legs executing perfect gybes, in some cases with a completely blind/non sighted person beaking the guy executed completely by sound and feel. What I must highlight is the fantastic volunteer, able bodied sailors who work with blind sailing, Adam, Jonny, Alex and others, their giving style and want to help and enhance is brilliant. The whole project gives you fire in your belly.”
Blind Sailing and Tigress Racing hope to provide more opportunities for all. Follow the journey at Royal Southern Regatta @blindsailinguk and @tigresssportsailing.
If you are inspired reading this as a visually impaired person or as a volunteer, please get in touch with Blind Sailing at firstname.lastname@example.org