Blind Sailing at the Academy

Visually Impaired and Blind Sailing at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy

The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) last week hosted a fleet of yachts sailing with visually impaired (VI) and blind crews on board.  Blind Week is now associated with the charity, ‘Sailing Opportunities for Disabled People’.

John Tweed, Chief Executive of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, is delighted to have hosted these sailors.  ‘Blind Week is an excellent initiative dating back to 1975 and we are proud to be hosting the week this year at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.  A large part of our venue development focussed on access for people with disabilities and it is inspiring to see visually impaired and blind sailors enjoying these top rate facilities.  The event has spawned many of the UK’s world class racing sailors, with GBR regularly taking home gold, silver and bronze medals in the World Blind Sailing Championship and it is exciting to think that some of these visually impaired sailors could also make the 2012 Paralympic Squad.’

The week offers a great opportunity for visually impaired individuals and gives them the opportunity to take their first steps offshore and get a taste of the thrills off sailing. The event is available to all and experience is not a requirement, the idea of the event is for participants to gain experience from the skippers and other crew members. Many of the skippers involved in the event are seasoned pros; two of them at this recent event have racked up 52 blind weeks between them.

The boats are provided with a talking compass and some have voice synthesised instrumentation. The teams consist of two Visually Impaired sailors and one or two other crew members as well as the skipper. The cruising ranges from day sailing to cruises as far as France, the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands.

The WPNSA is becoming a regular location for similar events with the IFDS World Championships taking place at the venue this week July 1 – 8.  This is followed by the Test Games during August and will ultimately be the venue for the sailing competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Please note that Blind Week was initiated by, and run under the auspices of, the RYA Seamanship Foundation from 1976 (which was renamed RYA Sailability in 1995) who handed the organisation on to Sailing Opportunities for Disabled People in 2000.

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