Blind sailing continues its popularity throughout the U.S., among those individuals who have access to it.
Blind Sailing International (B.S.I.) is the governing body for competitive international sailing for persons who are blind or visually impaired. Sailors who meet the universal criteria for legal blindness are eligible to compete in B.S.I. boat race meetings, called regattas. Since legal blindness does not mean total blindness, it is necessary to establish an equitable method of grouping sailors for fair competition and for the said purpose International Blind Sports Association (I.B.S.A.) standards are followed.
I.B.S.A. does not include sailing, but B.S.I. has adopted its vision classification for its international sailing competitions: B1, B2, B3. Under this system the B1, B2 and B3 sailors currently race in three separate divisions, according to the vision classification of the helmsman.
The problem remains, however, that there are limited blind sailing opportunities available, whether perceived or real, for blind persons to sail. The challenge ahead is to bring the concept of blind sailing to more people in geographical areas unfamiliar with blind sailing.
Boats for blind sailing
Blind sailors do not require special boats or special adaptive equipment to sail competitively. But an orientation to the boat is essential and some blind sailors prefer tactile markings on their boat. It is to be noted that the preferred type or design of boat is one that is large enough to carry a crew of four while small enough to provide a responsive helm, which will enable the blind sailor to exhibit their 'seat of the pants' sailing ability.
Boats with tillers are preferred over those with wheels so that the blind helmsman can gain a better feel of the helm. A responsive helm is more of a factor than the boat size or design.
Blind Sailing International Regattas have been including boats ranging in size from the 23 foot Sonar (sonar is an acronym for sound navigation ranging) to the 36 foot Farr design. The sailing venue and the availability of boats have often dictated the size and design. Since the 1999 B.S.I. Regatta in Miami that sailed quite successfully in Sonars, the Sonar appears to be the boat adopted by International Foundation Disabled Sailing, however, the same would be considered by the B.S.I. for future international regattas.
Blind sailing on a worldwide scale was first initiated by the New Zealand Council for Sailing for vision impaired persons, Auckland, New Zealand. This group, headed by Mr. Colin Spanhake, organised the first international regatta for the blind in 1992. The result was the formation of B.S.I.
B.S.I. was formally organised in 1994 at the second International Championships for the Blind, Fremantle, Australia. The first B.S.I. leadership operated out of New Zealand, later moved to Great Britain and as a result of 2002 elections, the B.S.I. leadership moved to the U.S. with Arthur O'Neill as the chairman.
So far, there have been five worldwide blind sailing regattas: 1992 Auckland, New Zealand; 1994 Fremantle, Australia; 1997 Weymouth, England, 1999 Miami, Florida, USA, and 2002 Gargnano Lake Garda Italy.
The number of countries participating in B.S.I. regattas had grown from five in 1992 to 14 in 1999.
Sailing of the boat being the primary responsibility of the blind sailors, certain rules are implemented to facilitate the same, since sighted guides are present on the boat for verbal guidance and safety. BSI regattas sail under the, International Association For Disabled Sailing, Racing Rules of Sailing·
Crew: A blind sailing team consists of four sailors on a boat, two of whom are blind according to I.B.S.A. classifications. The other two are sighted and serve as guides. The helmsman must be a blind sailor, who must steer the boat independently unassisted by any sailor. The other blind sailor serves as crew, primarily trimming the sails.
Roles: The sighted guide for the helm is not allowed to physically touch any of the controls on the boat including sheets, and is responsible for verbally guiding the blind helmsman. The second sighted sailor serves as crew assisting the blind crew with sail trim. The four sailors work together as a team with verbal communication skills and accurate execution of manoeuvres being the keys to success.
Download rules for conducting international events
Calendar of main competitive events
2004 British Blind Sailing Championships
6th Japan Blind Sailing Championships 2005
The Homerus Association is arranging its fourth world homerus championship 2006 that will take place in Imperia (near Monte Carlo)
c/o The Carroll Center for the Blind
770 Centre Street, Newton