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18 October 2005, 12:08 pm
HARRISON Awarded IPC Paralympic Order
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Disabled Sailing News

Former President of the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) Ian HARRISON (GBR) has been awarded the IPC Paralympic Order, the highest tribute a person connected with the Paralympic Movement can achieve. Other holders of the Paralympic Order include former President of the IOC Juan Antonio SAMARANCH (ESP), and Ian is the first person directly connected with sailing to receive the Order.
With typical modesty Ian said he was 'amazed' and 'gobsmacked' by the news.

According to the the IPC:

'Every year, the IPC honours people and organizations that have made outstanding and long-lasting contributions to the Paralympic Movement by awarding them the Paralympic Order. Any person or organization who has illustrated the Paralympic ideal through his/her actions, has achieved remarkable merit in the world of sport for persons with a disability, or has rendered outstanding services to the Paralympic cause, either through their personal achievement or their contribution to the development of sport for persons with a disability, may be admitted to the Paralympic Order.'

A Life Dedicated To Disabled Sailing

Ian trained as a social worker in Britain and was to finish a distinguished career as the Director of the Leicestershire Association of the Disabled. When he retired in 1988 he was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. Ian was a founding member of Sailability in the 1980s, starting the British organization with the overriding aim that no disabled person should be denied the opportunity to sail. He went on to become Chairman and then Vice-Chairman when Sailability merged with the Royal Yachting Association's Seamanship Foundation to become RYA Sailability.

Ian became an IFDS Vice-Chairman at the foundation's inception in 1988, and ten years later took over the role of Chairman. Ian retired from the post of Chairman at the beginning of 2005, making way for current IFDS Chairman Serge JORGENSEN (USA). However Ian still maintains his near 20 year service in the IFDS, staying on in the Executive Committee as one of the five Vice-Presidents. Ian is also the Disabled Sailing representative on the ISAF Equipment Committee.

Making Up For Lost Time

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Ian at this this year's meeting
of the Equipment Committee
at the ISAF Annual Conference
© Jonathan Drake/Getty

Ian's life in sailing began when his grandfather built him a boat as a one year old. His love of the sport grew at Poole Yacht Club and he went on to sail Snipes at national level. A life on the sea beckoned and Ian trained on HMS Worcester. His first tour saw him leave for India, where he caught Polio. As a result of the illness, Ian stopped sailing for many years, something that has motivated him ever since in his desire to see all people encouraged to sail whatever their situation.

When Ian came back to the sport it started with model yachts, before he moved on to a Miracle, where before long he had regained the winning habit. He was then invited to sail on the Challenger Trimaran.

In 1988 Ian competed for Great Britain at the 2.4 Metre World Championship, the class which would become the Paraylmpic equipment for the single-person keelboat, and was to become a regular in the class until he retired in 1999 to become a technical delegate for the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Ian also regularly appeared in the three-person keelboat, the Sonar, appearing at the Worlds since 1990. He was part of the crew that qualified Great Britain for the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games, where sailing was first included as a demonstration sport. He then acted as a reserve for Andrew CASSELL, Tony DOWNS and Kevin CURTIS (GBR) who went on to win the regatta.

'Sailing - That Is Reward Enough'

Speaking about his award of the Paralympic Order, Ian was very keen to stress the importance of those who have surrounded and supported him during his time in disabled sailing. In particular he highlighted the role of his wife Pauline, the manager of the British Disabled Sailing Team and Chairwoman of the IFDS Development Committee, who Ian says, 'has worked just as hard as I have.'

In typical fashion he was happy to deflect attention away from himself, towards the people he has worked with, 'ISAF have been incredibly supportive of disabled sailing. I was only the President [of IFDS] but it is all the other people involved who have made it possible.' Asked about his fondest memories from many years of experience he was quick to respond, 'the people, the comradeship, the fun, the laughter.'

Ultimately for Ian, the Order is a great honour, although as he says, sailing itself has given him everything he could ask of it, 'The things that have happened in my life through sailing - that is reward enough - it's been a great privilege and the rewards have been enormous.'

ISAF extends its congratulations to Ian HARRISON on receiving the IPC Paralympic Order.

ISAF. Image, Ian HARRISON:© Jonathan Drake/Getty Images
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