Sailing first appeared as a Paralympic demonstration sport at Atlanta 1996 before being included as a full medal sport for Sydney 2000. The 2.4mR and Sonar were the two classes contested in Australia with 15 entries in the Sonar and 17 in the 2.4mR.
In Athens 2004 the same classes were contested this time the Sonar attracting 15 entries and 16 sailors competing in the 2.4mR.
Beijing 2008 saw the introduction of a third class – the SKUD 18 – and a record entry of 80 athletes sailing in 41 boats from across 25 nations.
16 x 2.4mR
- 11 x SKUD
- 14 x Sonar
Internationally sailing for disabled people began in the 1980s. The first International Handicap Trophy Regatta was officially recognised and held in Switzerland and subsequent regattas with that name were held in Germany, the Netherlands, France and again in the Netherlands.
In 1988 the International Handicap Sailing Committee (IHSC) was established. IHSC organised regattas, provided a forum for exchanging information and acted as a medium for promoting sailing for disabled people.
In 1990 disabled sailing for recognised by the International Disabled Sports Organisations when it was included in the World Games for the Disabled held in Assen in the Netherlands.
A year later IHSC was recognised by the world sailing body, then the International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU) and the first IYRU World Disabled Sailing Championship was held in Nyon, Switzerland.
Later in 1991 IHSC took on its current name of the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS). In 1992 the IFDS constitution was formally adopted and the IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championship was sailed in Spain, alongside, but not part of, the Barcelona Paralympics.
Since 1992 numerous regional, international and world championships have been organised under the IFDS banner in locations such as Spain, the USA Greece, Italy, China and Australia. Equipment has included multihulls as well as monohulls. All kinds and levels of disability are reflected in the competitors, including persons with visual impairments and very severely disabled sailors.
The first Paralympic sailing demonstration regatta took place at Atlanta 1996. In the Sonar (plus reserve), the gold medal was won by the British crew of Andy Cassell, Kevin Curtis, Tony Downs and Ian Harrison.
After sailing had been formally contested as a full Paralympic sport in Sydney and Athens, in 2004 the IFDS applied to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for an additional Paralympic classes event specifically for severely disabled sailors. The inclusion of a third event – the SKUD – for Beijing 2008 was approved by the IPC in 2005, providing the current, line-up of classes.
In 2012 Great Britain won their first ever Paralympic medal. Helena Lucas, the only women in the open 2.4mR class won gold, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell followed this up with bronze in the SKUD.
In 2014 IFDS merged with World Sailing to create the Para World Sailing Committee. At the start of 2015 the IPC announced the sailing would not be part of the 2020 Paralympic Games, World Sailing have been working to reverse this decision for 2020 and beyond.