Huge Effort Needed to Reinstate Sailing at Paralympic Games

Published on April 11th, 2017

Sailing has been an official part of the Summer Paralympic Games from 2000 to 2016, after being a demonstration sport in 1996. But the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) removed Sailing from  2020 Tokyo when the sport did not meet the IPC criteria, and World Sailing is working hard now to reinstate Sailing for 2024 Paralympics.

Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checked in with Para World Sailing Manager Massimo Dighe for an update.

Is there critical criteria that must be met this year?
The critical criteria is listed in the IPC Handbook, November 2013, Paralympic Games, Organization Principles, Section 1, Chapter 3:

4.2.2 Sport’s (discipline’s) worldwide reach eligibility
“…Only individual sports and disciplines widely and regularly practiced in a minimum of thirty-two (32) countries and three (3) IPC regions may be considered for inclusion in the Paralympic Games…”.

At the 2017 Para World Sailing Championships on June 20-25, we need to reach and possibly exceed this target, showing the Paralympic World that we’re working to create a solid movement that would guarantee strong participation at all levels of our sport for the future.

And if this quota is not met, is the door closed for 2024?
Yes, the IPC Criteria is not negotiable.

How many countries on average participate in Sailing at the Para Worlds?
The average participation at previous Para Worlds has been around 28 nations. In the Rio 2016 cycle, we had 32 nations participating at the principle Paralympic Games qualification regattas.

Any other ‘make or break’ levels at the 2017 Para Worlds?
The main aim is to increase participation and initiatives from our strategic plan released last year are supporting this. We are working closely with emerging nations from continents where access has been very limited in the past and this will add value to our proposal.

How hard is it to get participation now when Sailing is not in the 2020 Paralympics?
To increase participation in Paralympic sailing following the sports exclusion from the 2020 Paralympics has been challenging. A lot of countries suffered national funding cuts, and for some this meant that the funds were reduced to zero.

This has great impact on our sailors who, for the most part, are “non-professional” sailors. They are facing difficulties to find the resources to participate.

In saying this, there are increased efforts from MNAs (Member National Authorities) and sailors to take part at the Para Worlds and World Sailing has made budget available to support participation of emerging nations as well as nations that suffered a reduction in funding.

This support involves free charter boats, travel support as well as coaching and training assistance before and during World Cup Series Hyeres (France) and the Para Worlds in Kiel (Germany).

Is there provided equipment at the 2017 Para Worlds?
Yes, working in collaboration with the RYA and US Sailing, we are able to offer 12 2.4 Norlin OD boats to charter and we can offer 24 Hansa boats to charter.

We don’t have an agreement in place to provide equipment with the Weta but we’ll support sailors who decide to charter a Weta Trimaran.

The Hansa 303 and Weta are new to the Para Worlds. Do they provide greater access for new countries to participate?
Yes, they can guarantee greater access as there are more than 1,600 Hansa and 1,100 Weta boats around the World. Furthermore, the boats appeal to sailors across multiple levels. The Hansa is simpler and very popular in emerging nations and the Weta is very technical, covering the needs of more experienced sailors. This can help us reach the whole Paralympic sailing world.

The registration numbers don’t look too good right now. Is this cause for concern?
We have had a lot of requests for support and confirmation from different countries who are finalising the logistics for participation at the event. I’m confident that in short term we’ll see a rapid increase of our registrations.

But the bottom line is the next 10 weeks are vital for reinstatement.
2017 needs to be a turning point for Paralympic sailing but World Sailing needs to do this in collaboration with MNAs, sailors, class associations and all other stakeholders involved in our sport so we can reach our targets. This needs to be a huge team effort.

Reaching our participation target will not be a final point. We will have a new starting point to continuously increase knowledge and participation in our sport with the aim of reaching as many countries as possible. World Sailing is fully committed to this.

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