On 30 March, thirty world class teams will meet on the starting line in Tampa Bay, Florida, at the venerable St Petersburg Yacht Club (SPYC). This is the first IFDS Two-person World Championship for world-class sailors with disabilities.
In 1948 a sporting competition involving World War II veterans with spinal cord injury first began in England. Four years later competitors from Holland joined the games and an international movement, now known as the Paralympics was born. The first Olympic-style games for athletes with disabilities was in 1960 in Rome. Today, the Paralympics is an elite sporting event for athletes with disabilities in six different disability groups, with the Games beginning two weeks after the Olympics, at the same venue.
The International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS), Paralympic sailing authority, is in final preparations for the world's first, IFDS Two-Person World Championship this March in Tampa Bay, Florida.
This inaugural event is step in the development of a new event for the Paralympic Games focussed on severely disabled athletes, and follows the first ever IFDS Single-Person Dinghy World Championsips which too was, besides the sailing experience and competition, aimed towards evaluating options for severely disabled athletes.
Event Co-Chairperson, Ken CARPENTER says: 'I've spent a lot of time on and around the racecourse. In 1993, I met John ROSS-DUGGAN rolling down the dock in his wheelchair. John told me that he intended to sail in the Paralympic Games in Atlanta and had come to the Club to train, but he couldn't get into his Sonar sailboat, and asked for my assistance! Last week, John ROSS-DUGGAN, a quadriplegic from California, qualified to represent the US in the upcoming 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. It gives me great pleasure to see my fellow sailors achieve their Paralympic goals.
The first-ever IFDS Two-Person World Championship will be sailed in the spinnaker-equipped Martin 16, a high-performance, sixteen-foot sloop designed specifically to accommodate sailors with severe disabilities. The Martin 16 is sailed by a two-person crew; both seated in ergonomic seat modules and upper body support harnesses. This innovative sailboat can be equipped with any combination of portable, power-assisted sheeting, control line and steering systems. Men and women with disabilities, such as high-level quadriplegia (no movement below the neck) control the helm and sails through a 'sip & puff', assistive technology control interface - controlling sail trim and steering by using their breath to 'sip' or 'puff' through a straw.
Dan MCCOY, Paralympic sailor from Canada shared: 'One evening, just before Christmas 1994, my life changed in a moment when an untimely automobile accident left me a paraplegic with only memories of the sport that I'd enjoyed since childhood. Almost nine years later, having won the International Mobility Cup Regatta four times and sailed for Canada in the 2000 Paralympic Games, I am thankful to be sailing again and can personally testify to the focus and challenge that competitive sailing has given my life since my accident. It is wonderful to be part of an international community of men and women who, in spite of the challenges of daily living with a disability, share my passion and commitment to the sport'
The Two-Person World Championship organizing committee invites Sponsors to support and share in the recognition of the unique event, and encourages media to communicate the emotional and positive stories of sailors' courage and commitment in spite of personal adversity and challenges.
Further details are available on the event website at the address below.