Canadians capture bronze at the World Blind Match Racing Championships

Canadians capture bronze at the World Blind Match Racing Championships

Brian Arthur (jib), David Brown (helm), and Grant Robinson (main) bring home bronze from the 2014 IFDS World Blind Match Racing Championships held in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan. Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Canada and the United States participated in the recent week-long regatta using the format proposed for the 2016 Paralympics.

The three person Canadian crew in raced all matches without sight. The local, experienced match racing coach was removed from the boat at the 7 minute warning. Each mark had a unique audio sound in addition to port and starboard sounds on each of the host club’s 23 foot Sonar sailboats.

Talking stopwatches were the only onboard electronics used by the team. They relied on feeling the wind and the audible sounds to make tactical decisions. As in sighted racing, the teams experienced situations where the marks were not discernable and had to sail either upwind or downwind until discovered. Sometimes the audible marks were out of range of hearing and during one race, the waves were taller than the marks.
Each day had wind but the range of conditions provided its own challenges from 2 to 20 knots of wind, 20 down to 5 degrees Celsius with drizzle to limit the amount of skin that could be exposed to feel the wind direction.

The community of the U.S. sailing centre at Sheboygan came together to put on some fantastic racing. Sail Sheboygan, Sailing Education Associations of Sheboygan (SEAS), Sheboygan Yacht club, with the on shore volunteers from the Lions, delivered a world class five days of sailing, three round robins and the finals.

Special recognition goes to the race committee who hosted the first ever North American blind match racing event. The committee boat and umpire boats needed to be under motor at all times to avoid the sightless participants.
They used very restricted radio communications for penalties and start signals.

The ability to compete without sighted assistance is both challenging and rewarding.
Many spectators found it difficult to believe the match racers had no sight until their white canes came out of their sailbags back at the dock.
This is the ultimate compliment for all the racers.

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