As you were.

That is the message from RYA Director of Racing, John Derbyshire, as the RYA looks to continue to support World Sailing in getting sailing reinstated as a Paralympic sport for Paris 2024.

World Sailing unveiled its Para World Sailing Strategic Plan for 2017-2020 at its Annual Conference last year, and in the 10 months since, John believes some positive steps have been made towards meeting the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) criteria for consideration for Games re-inclusion.

The plan outlined World Sailing's desire to grow disabled sailing and competition worldwide by making disabled sailing more affordable and inclusive, underpinned by good governance and greater global awareness. So this year the RYA has supported these objectives in a number of ways.

The RYA provided some of its 2.4mR one-person keelboats for charter at the Sailing World Cup Hyeres, Delta Lloyd Regatta Holland and the Para World Sailing Championships in Kiel in June. 

Travel grants were awarded to British sailors, including Megan Pascoe, Will Street, Nev Millard and Carol Dugdale, to attend these events with RYA coaching and RIB support provided at no extra cost. Meanwhile, through Sailability, there has also been a renewed focus on developing grassroots club racing.

Although the exact timetable is to be confirmed, it is expected the deadline to apply to the IPC for sailing's 2024 inclusion will be late spring 2018, with a decision likely next autumn.

In the meantime, John expects the RYA to continue supporting the activities it has so far.

He said: "The biggest positive this year was the success of the Worlds. The IPC set the target of 32 competing nations for this event. In the end sailors from a record 39 nations registered to race in three classes, including first time entries from Chile, China, Indonesia, Latvia, Macau, Namibia, South Africa, Turkey and Uruguay.

"World Sailing has also been running a series of specialist Paralympic Development Program clinics across the continents, providing specialist coaching and information to sailors and coaches from emerging nations.

"The anecdotal feedback relayed to us is the IPC has been extremely positive about this progress. So of course we would want to see this momentum continue, especially as it's feasible for the IPC to continue monitoring activity once the application is in, which would cover most of next season."

Maintaining the profile

Although summer may be officially on its way out here, there is no let up in keeping sailing at the forefront of the IPC's minds.

Increasing the number of youth age sailors is another key Para World Sailing Strategic Plan strand.

On behalf of the British Paralympic Association, the RYA recently invited sailors to apply to represent Britain and receive support at the European Para Youth Games in Liguria, Italy from 9-15 October. The sailing at these multi-sport Games will be in two-person Hansa 303s and the selected sailors will be announced soon.

The Hansa 303 is one of three classes, alongside the 2.4mR and Weta Trimarans, proposed by World Sailing as part of their reinstatement strategy. One-person Hansa 303 male and female events were contested at the 2017 Para Sailing Worlds. As a result, the RYA is working closely with the Hansa Class Association UK on both supporting performance-level sailors and growing grassroots racing participation.

The RYA has provided HCA(UK) with funding for sailors going to the Hansa Europeans in Meze, France in October, while 2017 Hansa National and RYA Multiclass 303 one-person champion, Rory McKinna (Clyde Cruising), is attending a World Sailing Paralympic Development Program clinic ahead of the event.

In addition, RYA coaches, including RYA Disability Development Officer and Sailability racing lead, Brett Cokayne, are leading a pre-Europeans training camp, with around 14 sailors expected to attend, at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.

During this camp, a delegation of World Sailing Training Scholarship coaches will spend a day with Joff McGill, RYA Sailability Manager, at Chesil Sailability looking at the challenges, opportunities and barriers to implementing disabled sailing programmes in their home nations. They will also observe the Hansa race coaching on the water and spend lunchtime chatting with the sailors.

Feeding the grassroots

Of course, supporting elite racing can only happen when you've got sailors to support, and this can only be generated from the range and wealth of activity going on in class associations, clubs and Sailability groups. 

Hansa Blue Fleet Training continues introducing club sailors to racing, giving them the skills and understanding of the rules needed to race at their own club and Hansa TT Traveller events. The next is at Whitefriars Sailability on Friday 15 September, led by RYA Disability Development Officer and coach, Leon Ward.

No fewer than 28 boats took part in the Hansa Nationals in July, while up to 20 entries are expected for the Challenger Nationals on 15-17 September.

Meanwhile, in August more than 50 boats and 74 sailors converged on Rutland Water for the 10th RYA Sailability Multiclass Regatta - including Weta and RS Venture fleets taking part in the event for the first time - impressive attendance numbers comparable to the 80 sailors that competed at the 2017 Para Sailing Worlds.

Next month, a meeting of all interested UK class associations is planned to look at the successes and challenges they have had in getting more people racing this season and ways they and the RYA can work together to continue feeding the interest in grassroots racing moving forwards. 

Brett said: "The size and diversity of the Multiclass attendance really highlighted the progress being made for me. We had sailors ranging from two from Bolton Sailability attending their first 'away' event and groups such as Sussex Sailability attending for the first time, to 2017 2.4mR World and European champion, Megan Pascoe, and 2004 Paralympian, Allan Smith competing.

"On the training day, every fleet had its own class specialist coach and specific race coaching, and although we had a group for sailors new to Open Meetings, they were encouraged to join their fleet training groups to get to know and learn from other sailors who sail the same boat. The social side was a massive consideration."

More news on World Sailing's next Paralympic move is expected at the 2017 Annual Conference in Mexico in November. Megan Pascoe sits on the Para World Sailing Committee and the RYA will follow progress closely via the various committees. What happens here could, of course, inform the RYA's own approach next year.

But as John concludes: "There's still so much we don't know, which probably won't become clear until if and when sailing is reinstated as a Paralympic sport. All we can do as one of the world's leading sailing nations is to keep supporting World Sailing to send the clear message to the IPC that disabled sailing matters."

So as you were.