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Canada's First Participants in a World Blind Sailing Championship

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is re-printed from the Ontario Sailing Association - Able Sail Index, http://www.sailon.org/ablesail/

Two keen legally blind persons, David Brown and David Greenwood, heard about The World Blind Championship in June of 1999 at a local program called Bronte Harbour Sailing for the Visually Impaired started by Vicki DeKleer in 1984.

They both had been sailing recreationally for about 10 years. David Brown started with sailboards and still enjoys that sport. David Greenwood sailboards and sails dinghies.

Despite the lack of sponsors, funding and with no sighted Canadian crew assistance, the two men decided to participate in the 1999 World Blind Sailing Championships held from October 16 to 23 in Miami, Florida. The Shake-a-Leg Miami host organization graciously found 2 sighted volunteers to race with the Canadian team.

The day before they were scheduled to fly from Toronto to Miami a hurricane hit Miami and some flights were canceled. Fortunately their plane was able to depart. Needless to say, their first practice sail that day was windy and exciting!

Teams from fourteen countries competed: Argentina, England, Canada, New Zealand, France, Japan, Italy, Northern Ireland, Finland, Norway, Jamaica, Sweden, Spain, and two USA teams. Three classes, B1, B2 and B3, competed according to levels of vision. There were 10 country teams in Canada's B2 fleet. Some countries such as New Zealand and Great Britain had competed in all previous championships. For other countries such as Jamaica and Argentina it was their first competition the same as for Canada.

There was a fleet of fourteen 23 foot Sonar supplied by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club for the event.

The races were conducted on a standard Olympic A course with a windward leg, an offset windward rounding to port, a down wind leg, and a final leeward rounding back to the start/finish line. Some races had two laps when wind conditions permitted and each team raced in seven races over five days.

One of the blind sailors had to helm the entire race starting with the 10 minute count down gun. The sighted skipper could only touch the back stay and give verbal directions. The other blind and sighted crew persons could trim either the main or jib sails.

The Canada team placed eighth out of the ten countries in their fleet. This was an accomplishment considering their lack of funding and practice with regular sighted crew members.

THE FUTURE

The goal of the Canadian team is to crew for weekly local Toronto races in a class similar to that of the Sonars. From this involvement in an existing able-bodied program they can gain more race experience, public awareness, and potential contacts for sighted crew members for the next championships.

Photo from Website www.sailon.org/ablesail/wbcanada.htm

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