Under the vision classification system established by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) to provide fair competition for blind athletes, each nation can enter one team in each of the three vision categories: B1, B2 and B3. A registered Ophthalmologist must complete the classification forms which are required of all regatta entrants and are subject to verification by an IBSA certified physician. The vision classification of the skipper determines in which division each four person team will compete with the totally blind B1s and the vision-impaired B2s racing in the New York Yacht Club's fleet of Sonars, and the least vision-impaired B3s racing in Sail Newport's J/22s.
Each team will include two vision-impaired sailors - skipper and one crew - accompanied by two sighted guides who provide verbal information to tactically position the boat as it navigates the race course. The rules mandate that only a blind sailor can steer, while the other blind crew trims the sails.
The regatta will benefit from the experiences of the husband and wife team of Lyn and Peggy COMFORT (USA), the co-chairs for the event. Lyn COMFORT sailed as a sighted guide in two Blind Championships (1994 and 1997). 'It got my adrenaline flowing as much as any sailing I've ever done. It's serious stuff.' A past chair of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), he presently serves as an AFB Trustee Emeritus. Peggy COMFORT not only has extensive regatta management experience gleaned running events such as the 1994 Etchell North Americans to the 2004 UBS Challenge, but also race committee experience at high-profile events such as the 2003 America's Cup and 2005 IOD World Championships.
From five nations participating in the first international regatta for the Blind in 1992, to upwards of 14 nations now fielding blind sailing teams for competition, interest in blind sailing has grown significantly around the globe. Five championships for blind sailors have been held thus far in: 1992 in Auckland, New Zealand; 1994 in Fremantle, Australia; 1997 in Weymouth, Great Britain; 1999 in Miami, Florida, USA; and 2002 in Lake Garda, Italy. For the inaugural IFDS Blind Sailing World Championship in 2006, regatta organizers are anticipating entries from Australia, Great Britain, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the USA.
Sponsors of the 2006 IFDS Blind Sailing World Championship are Best Western The Mainstay Inn, The Carroll Centre for the Blind and the Sailing Foundation of New York. The organizing authority for the World Championship is NYYC, IFDS, Blind Sailing International and US SAILING.