3 Doctors In A Boat, A Visit To The IFDS 2010 Disabled Sailing World Championship.
Jason Smithwick, Head of the ISAF Technical and Offshore department visits the IFDS 2010 Disabled Sailing World Championship and shares his experience of the event.
I had the fortune to attend the first two days of the 2010 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championships in Medemblik, Netherlands. As head of the ISAF Technical and Offshore department I was particularly interested in the equipment and adaptations being used by the sailors. The Worlds were being held in three classes; the International 2.4 metre, the International Sonar and the SKUD18.
My day started with a quick tour around the dock by Dr Bernard Destrube (Chair, IFDS Medical Committee), to see the boats and adaptations. It quickly became apparent that some of these sailors had overcome what could be considered a high degree of disability by the use of clever adaptations to the boat and its systems. These adaptations get them out on the water, not just sailing but competing at World level. As the boats all left the dock there was an array of wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs left waiting for the sailor to return. I quickly realised that in many ways the boat is, much like a wheelchair, not just a piece of equipment but an extension of a disabled sailor's mobility, working together to get around a race course.
I was then lucky enough to get a seat on one of the IFDS International Classifiers boats with 3 doctors, Dr Bernard Destrube (CAN/FRA), Dr Itzak Siev-Ner (ISR) and Dr Jenny Molson (CAN). For the Three-Person Keelboat, Sonar and the Two-Person Keelboat SKUD18 there is a maximum number of IFDS International Classification points allowed per boat. The sailors are awarded points, based on their functionality in the boat and this is determined following a comprehensive set of medical tests; the lower the score, the higher the degree of disability.
During an event the role of the IFDS International Classification Team is to get in amongst the boats and look at the individual sailors while racing. The classifiers look at their movement around the boat and ensure their medical classification score is correct. For example, in some instances the sailor's score is given on the basis that the sailor may not sail with a prosthetic limb and this is also checked by the classifiers. It was an amazing insight, not just into the IFDS International Classification System, but also how different each sailor is and how they all require an individual adaption to suit their requirements. The racing in the Sonar fleet was close and highly competitive. The racing in the SKUD18 was amazing to watch, most of the helms had severe disability and to watch those sailors racing was an inspiration.
Equipment Inspection is also taken seriously. Gene Hinkle, Chief Measurer for the event and International Measurer for the Sonar showed me around the boats and described how the adaptations are incorporated into the measured boat weight, he also described how the adaptations are carefully scrutinised to ensure that they do not take the ability of the sailor over and above that of an able bodied sailor. Gene has also worked hard with the sailors in developing appropriate adaptation systems.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of the IFDS worlds and learnt a lot about this side of our sport, perhaps most importantly how it really doesn't differ much from able bodied sailor events. Thanks all those who looked after me so well including Linda Merkle, IFDS President and David Staley, IFDS Vice-President.