Sailing first started to attract
sailors with disabilities in the 1980s, with the first international sailing
competition for athletes with a disability being 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 disabilities. Two years later, sailing made its debut as an
exhibition sport at the World Games for the Disabled.
The International Sailing
Federation (ISAF) recognised the IHSC (renamed the International Foundation for
Disabled Sailing (IFDS), in 1991. Paralympic
sailing was introduced at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games as a demonstration
sport and then became a full medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. It is now practiced by athletes in more than
It was open to athletes with any type of physical impairment and categorises sailors using a functional classification system which was based on four factors: stability, hand function,
mobility and vision. Athletes competed in
three events, which are non-gender specified: single-person keelboats (the 2.4mR class),
two-person keelboats (the Skud) and three-person keelboats (Sonar, 3 person, no spinnaker).
At the London 2012 Games, 80 athletes competed in three medal
events. The British Sailing Team
achieved a gold medal in the 2.4mR single-person keelboat class sailed by Helena
Lucas, a bronze in the SKUD 18 two-person keelboat class, sailed by Alexandra
Rickham and Nikki Birrell.
There is currently no Paralympic pathway for sailing.
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