The Australian Sailing Team
Sailing started to attract sailors with a disability in the 1980s and the first international sailing competition for athletes with a disability was held in Switzerland.
In 1988 the International Handicap Sailing Committee (IHSC) was founded and began working to organise competitions and forums to promote sailing for persons with a disability. In 1990 sailing made its debut as an exhibition sport at the World Games for the Disabled.
In 1991 the International Sailing Federation recognised the IHSC, which was renamed later that year the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS).
Sailing appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games and in 2000 gained full Paralympic sport status at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. It was included in the Paralympic Games competition programme as a medal sport with events for the Sonar (three-person keelboat) and the 2.4mR (single-person keelboat).
The same events were on show at Athens 2004 before the SKUD18 was introduced for the Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games.
Paralympic Sailing is open to athletes with limb loss/limb deficiency, cerebral palsy / brain injury, vision impairment, spinal and nerve injuries and other physical impairments. Athletes must navigate a set course in a faster time than their opponents.
Athletes compete in three events, which are non-gender specific: the single-person and three-person keelboats are open to most impairment groups. The two-person keelboat event is specifically designed for athletes with a severe impairment.
Sailing has been discarded from the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020; however, the sailing community is working to have the sport reinstated for the Paralympics in 2024.
At the first Paralympic sailing competition, Australia topped the medal count, with Noel Robins, Jamie Dunross & Graeme Martin combining to win gold in the Sonar. Australia went on to win medals at the Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. The Rio Games were highlighted by Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch winning back-to-back gold medals in the Skud 18 class, and Australia won medals in both other classes, making it the most successful nation in the Paralympic sailing competition.
Visit the Sailing Australia website to learn more.