Crew member Jeff MILLIGAN, who sailed with DUNROSS at the Athens Paralympics in 2004, has been declassified as disabled, the day before the start of the Championship.
MILLIGAN is an amputee, having lost his right foot. All disabled sailors' classifications are only valid for the Paralympic quadrennial, and following Athens, MILLIGAN's new classification has made him ineligible to compete.
After six years of sailing with DUNROSS' crew, and competing in previous IFDS World Championships, and the Paralympics MILLIGAN was disappointed by the decision.
'I've been training hard three days a week for 18 months,' he said, 'Spent a lot of money, a lot of time, then get here the day before the race, after two days of waiting for a decision, they said no, you can't sail.'
Though substitute crew Graeme MARTIN was on Noel ROBINS' gold medal winning crew with DUNROSS at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, he has not sailed competitively since.
When MILLIGAN was refused classification as a disabled sailor, the team protested the decision, but the International Jury upheld the decision by the Classification Committee, after two days of hearings and deliberations.
The skipper DUNROSS was both disappointed for MILLIGAN, and annoyed that all the work they have put in as a team is now compromised.
IFDS President Serge JORGENSEN (USA) released a statement saying, 'It is with regret that the IFDS notes the recent classification questions at the 2006 Disabled World Championship. The classification system used for Disabled Sailing has been developed over the past 14 years by a multi-national team of physicians from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and the USA, and with feedback and input from coaches, sailors and RNAs. The system is designed to provide the greatest possible degree of equity and inclusion, while allowing teams to compete against other sailors with physical functional limitations within defined parameters.
'These parameters of functional limitations include such things as spinal cord injuries, certain amputations, visual impairments, cerebral palsy and stroke victims. There are many different degrees of disability, and significant work and effort goes into defining a functional system that recognizes the impairments of each disability and comparing it with the relative abilities of other sailors. This becomes very difficult, especially when looking to include the maximum number and types of sailors and disabilities. At both ends of the scale, there are sailors that have found that they are 'too disabled' to compete, and sailors that have been identified as 'too functional' as related to the current definitions in the sport-specific system.'
To read the complete statement CLICK HERE.
The Alcoa IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championships are the first qualifying event for the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, and over 70 sailors from 14 nations are contesting the event.
After an invitation race today, the Championship proper starts on Perth's Swan River tomorrow.
For all the news from the Alcoa IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championships CLICK HERE.