Conducted by Yachting Victoria as part of the Sail Melbourne 2004 International Regatta, the IFDS Single Person Dinghy Worlds will be open to sailors with an IFDS 1 or 2 Functional Classification.
Participants will include sailors with profound physical disabilities such as paraplegia and quadriplegia. The event will be sailed in the Access Liberty which is the latest design from Chris MITCHELL'S Access Dinghy Sailing Systems of Melbourne at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron on the picturesque Mornington Peninsula on the waters of Port Phillip Bay.
The worlds will commence with warm-up races on January 15 and 16, with the championship series set to start on January 18, one day after the opening ceremony.
Around 30 sailors with a disability are expected to be competing, one of whom is Herb Meyer from the USA. Herb was enjoying a sail on San Francisco Bay in July 1993 on a Rhodes 50. Handling the genoa sheet, he was pulled forward suddenly and struck his head on a bench, causing a spinal cord injury in the C5/6 area and instantly became a quadriplegic.
In the spring of 1994, Herb found out about the world of Sailors with Disabilities. Shortly after, he was invited to attend a meting of the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS), after which he was invited to go for a sail on an Erickson 27.
"What a wonderful experience it was to be sailing again. I didn't think it was a possibility because of my paralysis. I progressed in my recovery and discovered there were nationwide and worldwide organisations providing opportunities to sail and compete in sailboat racing.
I had been involved in racing sailboats for over 30 years prior to my injury and welcomed the opportunity to be on a race course again,"
Being introduced to the Access Dinghy in the USA, Herb has had the opportunity to compete in Access Dinghy regattas in the USA and in Australia and is very much impressed with the servo-electric system to aid in the handling of the sails and steering mechanism, saying it was truly a wonderful feeling to be able to sail independently again.
He looks forward to competing in the 2004 IFDS Single Person Dinghy World Championships in Fleet A, in which all the competitors will be using the servo-electric system. Consequently, this will be the first regatta in which there will be a 'level field' of competition for all participants.
Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron, who conduct a regular Sailability program along with their dinghy and keelboat activities, have been busy developing their facilities to accommodate an increased number of sailors and visitors in wheelchairs.
Through the Sail Melbourne International Regatta, support for the event has also been provided by the State Government of Victoria, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, Access Dinghy Foundation, Yachting Australia, P&O Nedlloyd, Schenker Australia, Yanmar, Collex and Ronstan International.