The 2007 International Match Racing Championships for Blind Sailors commences at Mondello, near Palermo in Sicily, today.
Hosted by Circolo Canottieri Rogero Di Lauria, the event uses the innovative Homerus system of acoustic buoys.
Teams from Australia, Israel and Switzerland will compete along with a number of Italian entries. New Zealand and Spain will be represented for the first time. This is the tenth Homerus International Championships and the inaugural event to be conducted in Sicily.
Sailors competing in this event must be IBSA classified B1 or B2 - legally blind. The championships are sailed in two identical 24 foot Meteor keelboats by a two person crew with a sighted observer on board. Three "beeping buoys", each with a unique signal, set out the course and each boat has its own sound signal that changes when on port or starboard tack.
Winning helmsman of the 2005 and 2006 championship, Paul BORG (AUS) is unable to compete, but the Australian entry will be led by BORG's 2006 crew, 21 year old Kylie FORTH from Royal Perth Yacht Club. Her sheet-hand is fellow Perth sailor, 33 year old Ryan HONSCHOOTEN. Coach for the Australian Team is Sailability Western Australia Manager and Paralympic sailor, Rachael COX.
FORTH, who is classified B1 (totally blind) and an above-knee amputee, was reserve for the Western Australian Sonar team at the IFDS World Championships in Perth last January, but she has only helmed in a single national match racing event so far. HONSCHOOTEN, also B1, has not competed in match racing before.
The Australians will face some tough competition over the four days of racing, including a number of very experienced Italian crews and the Israelis who are very professional campaigners. In just their second year of match racing competition, the Israeli team of Eitam IZRAELI and Nir LEVI took the bronze medal position last year and are serious contenders for the title in 2007.
The first round robin commences on Thursday with racing continuing until Sunday 4 November.