Paralympic sailing is open to male and female, physically disabled and visually impaired athletes. The Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games introduced Sailing as a demonstration sport, leading to its acceptance as a full medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics.
This sport is open to athletes with an amputation, cerebral palsy, blindness and visual impairment, spinal injuries and les autres.
Paralympic sailing uses a scoring system that assigns points between 1 and 7 based on level of ability which allows athletes from different disability groups to compete together. Athletes with a points score of 1 having the lowest functional ability rising to 7 for the highest. Not more than 14 crew points are allowed in a boat at any one time.
There are three disciplines in Paralympic sailing:
The Single-Person and Three-Person Keelboats are open to most disability groups, while the Two-Person Keelboat event is specifically designed for athletes with a severe disability. Athletes with a visual impairment are placed into one of three competition classes, based on their visual acuity and field of vision.
Weather permitting races consist of elevn separate runs.
Final placings are determined by the accumulation of points scored in each race. The team scoring the lowest points total being the winners.
The equipment used for Paralympic sailing features slight modifications in order to suit the athlete's abilities.
Yachts used in Paralympic competition have keels which provide greater stability. These keelboats are equipped with open cockpits which allow more room for the sailors. Adaptations are allowed depending on a sailor’s physical impairments. For example, adapted tillers for steering are allowed for those with a lower level of hand function and seats can be adapted too if sailors with low stability are competing.
Today disability sailing is practiced in over 50 countries after its debut as a demonstration event in the Paralympic Games in Atlanta, USA in 1996.
Paralympic sailing is governed by the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS). IFDS closely co-operates with the International Sailing Federation (World Governing Body for Sailing).