The International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) first approached the IPC in 1992, proposing that a sailing event be added to the 1996 Paralympic Games.
This came to fruition in 1996, with the inclusion of the three-person event using the Sonar keelboat. Each team had three crew and one alternate for a total of 16 entries and 64 athletes.
For the 2000 Paralympic Games, a single-person event was added using the 2.4mR class, adding 16 athlete positions. Together with the three-person event, this gave a total of 80 athlete positions and 6 medals (Gold, Silver, and Bronze in two fleets) for the 2000 Paralympic Games.
Opportunity for development of new international events
For the past two Paralympic competitions the IFDS Executive Board has observed that the "alternate" position in the Sonar class has not been effectively used. As well, the IPC does not wish to award medals to the alternate positions in 2008. For the 2008 quadrennial, the IFDS sees this as an opportunity to request a reallocation of these 16 "alternate" athlete positions to "competitors" by suggesting a modification of the existing Paralympic events and/or adding new events.
One of the principles of our sport has become 'sailing for everyone' - a significant difference from 'disabled sailing'. The IFDS Executive Board has observed that accessible sailing is growing worldwide, through the development of volunteer-driven accessible sailing programmes and the development of accessible sailboats and equipment. The IFDS is encouraged to see thousands of new sailors of all ages involved in the sport, in particular men and women with severe disabilities.
Innovation and development with the Access Dinghy, Martin 16, Challenger trimaran, Olson Twin, Sonar and 2.4mR classes have made the sport more accessible and continue to develop individual sailor's skills and experience.
With the support of the IPC, the IFDS Executive Board believes that the sport is ready for a Paralympic level competition for severely disabled sailors and women, and is actively exploring potential new event formats to propose to the IPC for inclusion in the 2008 or 2012 Games. A key part of the IPC's deliberation will be IFDS's presentation of solid evidence that there are severely disabled international sailors ready (or could be ready) to compete at the Paralympic level. In order to prepare this evidence, the first step has been to gain experience through "test events" hosted in 2004.
Evaluation of potential new Paralympic sailing events
The IFDS has granted 2004 World Championships for Disabled Sailing to include the Single-Person Dinghy World Championship (held in the Access Liberty in Melbourne, Australia) and the Two-Person Keelboat World Championship (held in the Martin-16 in St Petersburg, Florida, USA). The IFDS will use the experience gained from these two new events to determine the suitability of requesting additional events for the 2008 or 2012 Paralympic Games. In addition, the IFDS hopes to continue these World Championships in future years.
What happens next?
The IFDS must comply with the IPC process in order to modify the allocation of the 80 athlete positions or to make any request for additional positions. The timeline for revisions to the 2008 Games is approximately:
FOUR YEARS PRIOR TO GAMES (SEPT. 2004)
Submittal for PROPOSED EVENTS
The IFDS will propose the type of event that will be used in 2008, along with the justification for modifications or changes from current Paralympic sailing events. For example, the existing Paralympic sailing events are defined as "A single-person event for 16 countries," and "A three-person event for 16 countries."
THREE YEARS PRIOR (SEPT. 2005:
Submittal for PROPOSED EQUIPMENT
Once the requested modifications or new events are approved, the IFDS will then propose the type of equipment (boats) that will be used. The existing events, for example, use the "2.4mR" and "Sonar" as their EQUIPMENT.
How can sailors participate?
The IFDS Executive Committee wishes to facilitate the development of the most appropriate Paralympic events for men and women with disabilities, challenging their skills and demonstrating the equity of sailing as a Paralympic sport. The IFDS Executive Board welcomes your participation in this process, and time is of the essence.
Some of the avenues open to every sailor are as follows:
1. The Sailors' Forum, a discussion forum hosted on the ISAF Website - www.sailing.org/isafsailor
2. Having participated in the 2004 World Championships, provide feedback either via your RNA or direct to IFDS?
3. Talk to your RNA.
4. Contact the IFDS Executive Board via the web site contact information.