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Paralympic sailing history

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 70 countries.

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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