Blind Sailing: State of the Union

Published on December 18th, 2016

Vicki Sheen, Chairman of Blind Sailing International (BSI), recaps the past year and looks forward to 2017.


Vicki Sheen

It has been an eventful year in the world of blind sailing, and 2017 promises to be even more ‘event-filled’ with a growing number of local, regional, national, and international competitions and clinics.

Among the “firsts” for Blind Sailing in 2016:
• The 2016 World Sailing Blind Match Racing World Championships September 19-25 in Sheboygan, WI, USA, were run in parallel with the Women’s Match Racing World Championships.
• Team Israel – Skipper Elad Rosenzvieg and crew members Zohar Halevi and Yaniv Elimelech – made its first appearance in a Blind Match Racing World Championship.
• Multi-medal match racing champion Dave Perry conducted a well-attended match racing clinic for an international group of contestants Visually Impaired Match Racers.
• Canada’s first-ever Invitational Blind Sailing Regatta September 8-11 in Oakville, ON.
The inaugural Boston Open Blind Sailing Regatta October 15-16 on the Charles River at Community Boating (CBI).

With the growth of various regional, national and international competitions and training sessions throughout the year, we all need a single place where we can find what’s coming up. That place is the BSI web site. But we can’t maintain the listings without your help. Please email event details to:

There is now excellent accessible Match Racing training material by Dave Perry on the BSI website.

Liz Baylis and her team have produced an excellent short, informative video using graphics and Blind Match racing footage to explain and promote Blind Match Racing to blind and sighted supporters.

The international organizing authority for sailing, World Sailing (formerly the ISAF and IFDS), has sections on its website pertaining to blind and disabled sailing: General information and News.

2017 Blind Sailing Competition Calendar
All dates and venues are subject to change. ALWAYS contact event organizers to confirm details prior to making travel and lodging commitments.

April 7-9, 2017: Blind Sailing Unlimited Open Match Race, Titusville, FL USA, for blind and visually-impaired sailors. Organized by Blind Sailing Unlimited with Lake Baldwin Florida Community Sailing, the NOR has been posted and registration is open. There will be clinic and practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, April 5 and 6, with racing Friday – Sunday, April 7-9, 2017. Come to Florida in early April and get some blind match racing experience. NORRegistration

May 9-13, 2017: Homerus International Championship (B1 and B2 Blind Match Racing) in Salerno, Italy, organized by AZIMUT SALERNO and HOMERUS ASSOCIAZIONE ONLUS. The draft NOR is available on the BSI website. For additional details, contact AZIMUT: and HOMERUS: info@homerus.iyt

June 1-4, 2017
: Ninth Annual Robie Pierce Women’s Invitational and Disabled Sailors Regatta, American Yacht Club in Rye, NY USA. This regatta was conceived by the Flag Officers of the Larchmont and American Yacht Clubs to be run jointly by the Clubs and hosted by each on alternating years. Robie Pierce is a disabled sailor himself and a driving force in sailing with disabilities in the U.S. 2009’s inaugural regatta at American Yacht Club drew 22 teams sailing in specially adapted Ideal 18s. Look for more 2017 information and the NOR (coming soon) here:

June 16-18, 2017: Blind Fleet Racing North American Championships, Sail Sheboygan, Sheboygan, WI USA. This event represents a change in venue for the Blind Sailing Nationals (US) from Sail Newport to Sheboygan to better accommodate competitors from across North America. Look for more details from Sail Sheboygan here:

September 8-10, 2017: The North American Challenge Cup, Chicago Yacht Club in Chicago, IL. Site of the 2015 Blind Fleet Racing World Championships, CYC’s North American Challenge Cup is an annual fleet racing event for disabled and visually-impaired sailors. More details available from the Chicago Yacht Club.

September 9-15, 2017: World Sailing Blind Fleet Racing World Championships, Houston Yacht Club on Galveston Bay, Houston, TX, USA.To be sailed in Sonars and J22s. The event will follow the same class format as the previous three Fleet Racing World Championships with B1, B2 and B3 classes. Crews will consist of four team members; visually-impaired helm, visually-impaired main sheet trimmer, sighted jib trimmer and sighted tactician. Race entry fee: $1000 per team. There is a currently a boat charter charge of $1200. The Houston Yacht Club is seeking additional sponsors to reduce the boat charter fee. Hotel and transportation arrangements are being finalized. Details soon at the BSI website and Houston Yacht Club website.

Additional Proposed Events

2017 Canadian Invitational Blind Sailing Regatta
Date: TBA, probably in August or September 2017
Website: TBA

2017 Boston Open Fleet Racing Regatta
Location: Boston, MA USA
Date: TBA, probably in late September or October 2017
Website: TBA

2016 Blind Sailing Competition Reports

2016 Robie Pierce Regatta, June 5-6 2016 at Larchmont Yacht Club.
Two teams with blind skippers and mixed disabled and able crews took the top two places in the six race, 16-boat Ideal 18 one-design fleet. The winning vi skippers are both members of Boston Blind Sailing.

Final results:
1. Pauline Dowell, Christian Thaxton and Kay Van Valkenburgh
2. Matt Chao, Bill Blanchard and Bud Heerde
3. Ted King, Jim Scott and Bill Sandberg

Find more event details and the full list of results here:

Canadian Invitational Blind Sailing Regatta, September 8-11, 2016, Oakville, ONT CAN
Five teams from Canada and the US competed in the first-ever Canadian Invitational Blind Sailing Regatta at the National One-Design Sailing Academy in Oakville, ON along Lake Ontario’s north shore. The three-day event featured eight races in weather ranging from warm sunshine and calm winds to cold, wet, rain and wind.

Final results:
1. California One/Accessible Media: Ben Smith, Oakland; Philip Kum, San Francisco; Al Spector, Marin; Steven Bayles, Concord
2. Access Abilities: Chris Jonas, Toronto; Taylor Katzel, Kingston; Madelyne Maingot, Toronto; Don Leslie, Guelph
3. Fastoche: David Brown, Toronto; Joshua Cook Yellowknife (NWT); Nick Allison, Kingston; Bruce Rand, Kingston
4. CMS Web Solutions: Jasmine Schuchart, Toronto; Glen Barron, Markham; Maddy Beese, Oakville; Andre Beese, Oakville
5. Accessibil-IT, all from Toronto: Brian Arthur, Tammy Adams, Oly Yakymchuk and Yvonne Mellows

Find more text, images and video about this event here:

World Sailing 2016 Blind Match Racing World Championship, September 21-25 at Sail Sheboygan, WI with the Sheboygan Yacht Club and SEAS.
In an abbreviated (due to weather) two-day regatta, five three-person teams sailing Sonars competed for the Blind Match Racing Gold. Team Great Britain won all but one race, followed by Team Canada, Team USA1, Team Israel and Team USA2.

Final results:
1. GBR: Vicki Sheen, Liam Cattermole and Lucy Hodges
2. CAN: David Brown, Brian Arthur and Laura Cammidge
3. USA1: Walter Raineri, Kris Scheppe and Scott Ford
4. ISR: Elad Rosenzvieg, Zohar Halevi and Yaniv Elimelech
5. USA2: Mark Bos, BJ Blahnik and Matthew Chao

Find more details about this event here:

UK Blind Sailing National Championship October 7-9 at Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club with Blind Sailing.
Racing in good conditions at Cowes, a total of 12 vi sailors and nine sighted crew had a day of practice in Sonars and then two days of very competitive sailing in two categories: B1 and B2.

Final results:

B1 Fleet
1. Sharon Grennan, Sally Rodrigues, Ian Shirra and David Hawkins
2. Mark Austin, Dennis Manning, Jonny Stevenson and Charlotte Hunt
3. (on count back) Eddie Kitchen, Toby Davey, Jonny Cormack and James Wheeldon

B2 Fleet
1. Lucy Hodges, Chris Albert and Matt Grier
2. Laura Cammidge, Justin Smith and Charlie Griffiths
3. Liam Cattermole, Colin Midgley and Martin Philips

Find more details about this event here:

Boston Open Blind Sailing Regatta, October 15-16, 2016
Community Boating, Inc. (CBI) hosted the first Boston Open Blind Sailing Regatta on October 15-16 in Boston, MA. Four teams sailed in the CBI sonars on the Charles River with some close racing. Saturday brought light winds, and 6 races were completed. Day 2 on Sunday was moderate breeze and 6 races were sailed. Pauline Dowell, Kris Scheppe, Grace Olsen, and Kay VanValkenburgh moved up on the last day, after finishing with 4 bullets on the day and 7 bullets for the regatta, to win the regatta.

Final Results:
1. Pauline Dowell, Kris Scheppe, Grace Olsen, and Kay VanValkenburgh
2. Duane Farrar, Amy Bower, Amanda Mushal/Danielle Feerst and Sol Marini
3. Jason Wallanstein, Erich Manser, Leo Gaskell and Mike Dinning
4. David Viera, Katherine Kern, Andrew Alletag, and Bill Rapp

Find more details about this event here:

Blind Sailing In The News
While The Wind Stalls, Blind and Sighted Sailors Bond
Behind The Scenes at Blind Match Racing Worlds
British Team Wins Blind Match Racing Worlds
CNN Great Big Story: Blind at the Bow
Text and video about USA 1 Blind Match Racing team members Walt Raineri, Kris Scheppe and Scott Ford.
Walter Raineri: A Blind Sailor
A man goes blind as an adult and then takes up sailing
Match Racing Clinic, March 18 – 20, 2016, Ft Myers, FL USA
The Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS) teamed up with Blind Sailing Unlimited (BSU), the Women’s International Match Racing Association (WIMRA), and the Edison Sailing Center to host the second in a series of Blind Match Racing Clinics in the United States using the Homerus acoustic mark system.
“Sense The Wind” Documentary About Competitive Blind Sailing
“Sense The Wind” Blind Sailing Documentary Showings
Special event November 17, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan for Seabornia Yacht Club members, hosts of the 2013 IFDS Blind Sailing Fleet World Championships, celebrating the premier of the Japanese translation descriptive video version of Sense the Wind. Find more details here.
Second Sight: Device to assist blind sailors in match racing
The user interface for the system utilizes a computer-synthesized voice to communicate the relative position and velocity of the boats to the sailors by wireless headphones. The system provides an alarm if the boats get too close to one another.

Regional Updates

Boston Blind Sailing, formerly SailBlind, Reorganizes
Funding cutbacks to SailBlind’s competitive sailing program by its founding sponsor, The Carroll Center for the Blind, has resulted in local competitive blind sailors and guides setting off on a voyage to create a new competitive blind sailing program in Boston: Boston Blind Sailing. This initiative has just started, and organizational details, leadership and sailing venues and other partners are still to be determined. But based on the sailing prowess of Gold Medal Fleet World Champion Duane Farrar, Robie Pierce winner Pauline Dowell, long-time skipper Matt Chao and a host of additional talented and experienced blind and vi skippers and crewmembers — not to mention a sizable and talented cadre of experienced sighted guides — the new organization will be up and running for the 2017 sailing season. More details to follow.
– Ryck Lent, BSI Treasurer and Boston Blind Sailing member

Great Britain (GBR) Blind Sailing 2016
Now in December a quick turn around 2016 and what did we get up too.

2015-2016 Introduction and Advance Match Race Programme – this event relied on volunteer VI’s giving up time to encourage others to take up this element of sailing, two sailors that got a lot of this programme was Laura Cammidge and Mark Austin. Lucy Hodges volunteered and with the support of Blind Sailing volunteers gave Mark the basics of sailing and basic of match racing, Lucy then went on and took Mark to Italy to the Italian Open Nationals where Mark took part in his first event and took second place. This project was a great use of the time in the winter.

2016 Blind Match Racing Worlds – Again hampered by the weather, but great to be back in Sheboygan. The teams took part in Dave Perry’s training clinic. It was great to hear we had been working on the key areas. When chatting with Dave he encouraged us: “be able to do your own role to the top of your ability and be able to sail your boat slow and fast — this is key.” The teams then went on into the regatta enjoying the company of the Women’s World Match Racing. The GBR teams had a great event finishing 1st and 2nd.

2016 Blind Nationals (GBR) – Hosted by Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club, UKSA and Island Sailing Club. For the first time in a few years the weather was on our side with three good days of racing. The racing was very close across all fleets with the B1 fleet finishing with a count back for second and third place. This event showed how far the monthly training has taken everyone seeing teams work together control their boats in close quarters.

End of Season Training With Guest Coach Helena Lucas – A special weekend looking back at 2016 and also setting the goals for 2017. With Paralympian Helena Lucas, Gold and Bronze medallist, coaching it was a weekend full of information.

Both days the wind was not on our side, but with a lot learnt it truly showed on the Sunday what people had learnt from the short time with Helena. With the use of engines all were able to put into practice the starting techniques that Helena had talked through. It gave everyone time to think and plan without the flapping of the sails, just showed you don’t always need wind to learn out on the water.

The team also got feedback from Helena which was great coaching as individuals and as a team. Great to hear Helena’s stores of the games and how she looked at her own training to achieve high success.

We now moving forward to the 2017 Fleet Racing Worlds and start back on the water in January.
– Lucy Hodges

New Zealand (NZL) Blind Sailing Update
We are heading into spring now and the weather is warmer than the previous few months.

There was a race day for blind sailors interested in joining the 2017 Blind Fleet Worlds in Houston campaign with a good turnout. The competition took place at the Waitara Boating Club, which is located 20km north of New Plymouth on the Waitara River. Conditions were too rough on Saturday for sailing, but the weather cleared up on Sunday and sailors were on the water. Looking to finalize these teams later this year or early in 2017.

Our regional yacht clubs are setting up sailability clubs to allow access to sailing for those who don’t have full physical ability. This is a great opportunity to develop sailors from all walks of life. NZ Blind Sailing will be pleased to offer visually-impaired and blind persons opportunities to grow in blind sailing regattas and learn how to become proficient racers.
– Ben Geddes, B3 skipper and NZL BSI representative

San Francisco Blind Sailing Update
San Francisco Blind Match Racing Clinic, November 4-6, 2016

Mix world class coaching, gorgeous early Fall Northern California weather, a dozen eager visually-impaired sailors and what do you get? The 2016 SF BMR Clinic, and what a success it was! Coaches Juju and Matt of SEAS (Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan) were flown in from Sheboygan, Wisconsin to provide a full spectrum of hands-on and ears-on learning experiences on land and water for the blind match racing clinic.

During some light wind on dock time, participants ranging in ability from beginners to advanced racers all had the opportunity to check out every aspect of a Sonar 23 sailboat and how to race it. On the second day, everyone got the opportunity to wrestle with 15 knot winds and work as teams to sail around the course and engage in pre-entry and pre-start drills. During the clinic, the audible buoys worked flawlessly to guide the participants on land and on water while they executed the skill drills which ranged from boat handling, time and distance pre-entry training, to sailing the entire course, many for the first time.

A real unexpected clinic bonus were the personalized plastic laser-cut out course boards with pop out mini boats, wind indicators and current indicators all compliments of Grace Olsen given to all participants, coaches and sighted skippers. The course boards proved to be an invaluable learning tool during the classroom sessions to highlight concepts, tactics and skill drills.

Liz Baylis, a former World Champion match racer and current Executive Director of WIMRA (Woman’s International Match Racing Association), offered some words of encouragement to open the clinic on the first day. If you would like Blind Match Racing explained, check out this video. Liz does a great job of helping those understand what it is all about in the video.

Other Clinic highlights were the tasty pastries provided by Nicole of Velo Racing, a local team which boasts Match Racing National Championships, the amazing and well organized lunches and snacks (thanks karolina), the perfectly functioning Sonar boats (thanks John and Dylan), and the high spirited and friendly visually impaired participants who all walked away with a much greater appreciation for the sport of blind match racing.
– Walt Raineri, BAADS member

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