Returning Sailing to Paralympic Games

Published on July 4th, 2022

With Sailing removed from the Paralympic Games after Rio 2016, World Sailing CEO David Graham reflects on the importance of returning the sport to the Paralympic Games as the organization submits its application for Los Angles 2028 on July 4, 2022:

World Sailing’s ambition to be reinstated into the Paralympic Games started the moment it was removed. Today, we have reached a pivotal point as we submit our bid to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for inclusion in the Los Angeles 2028 Games.

Over the last few years we have focused on growing participation numbers and I’m proud we can now say we have Para Sailors active in the sport from five continents representing 41 countries. We are fully committed to securing the future of the sport, and we’re excited to see it thrive over what has been a challenging few years for global sport in general.

Our Para Sailing Development Programme (PDP) has been key in promoting that growth. These programmes really help sailors and coaches hone their skills outside of competition, enabling participating nations to grow sustainable training strategies. With PDP funding provided by World Sailing we’re also helping to get Para Sailors from developing countries to the start line of competitions, and in front of coaches.

Since 2017, 44 nations have taken part in our PDPs, and we’ve just concluded our first ever Para Kite PDP in Lake Garda, Italy. Para Kiteboarding presents an exciting opportunity to further develop Para Sailing and is the ideal avenue to attract both young and more experienced Para Sailors. PDPs and disciplines like Para Kiting will no doubt help us to hit our target to increase youth participation (those under 25) to 20% of total athletes across the sport by 2023.

Like our wider sports programme we are committed to gender equity in Para Sailing – it is one of the few sports where men and women can compete alongside and against each other on a level playing field. Our application to the IPC reflects that, with mixed male/female crews or fleets across all three of the proposed classes.

As a sport, Para Sailing is one of the most inclusive there is. In a recent survey, we found that 44% of the top 10 sailors at Para World Championships have high support needs, clearly showing how the sport allows sailors of all abilities to not only take part, but compete at the highest levels – one reason why the sport should be given the platform of the Paralympics.

In our application we have carefully considered this point, and the equipment we’ve proposed (RS Venture, Hansa, and 2.4mR) will allow sailors of all abilities to race together.

Ultimately, though, Para Sailing is about people and the ability of sport to transform lives for the better. From grassroots to elite level, sailing gives people with disabilities an opportunity to do on water what would be impossible for them on land and experience the freedom that comes with sailing.

I have seen this countless times for myself – most recently at the British National Championships in Derbyshire in June where I met a young disabled sailor who, through sailing, has found an activity in which he and his father can participate on an equal footing.

World Sailing is fully committed to the ongoing development of Para Sailing and our specialist Para Committee, led by USA’s Hall of Fame sailor Betsy Alison, is extremely active all around the world.

While Para Sailing previously had its own federation, it is now fully integrated into World Sailing, and is also included in our combined annual World Championships for our Olympic classes. This will continue to be the case in the future, whatever the outcome of the application.

Our IPC application submission may be imminent, but our work will never stop. Our #BacktheBid campaign has clearly shown how much the wider sailing community is behind this movement; teams, events, Olympians, and sailing legends from all disciplines within the sport have got behind and actively supported the campaign. The motivation and support is huge from our passionate, active, global, and inclusive sailing community.

There is a very tough decision ahead for the IPC. But whatever the outcome, World Sailing is committed to continue to grow Para Sailing at every level, from grassroots to elite, supporting individuals and events around the world for a fairer and more inclusive society.

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