Will Britain dominate Sailing at 2008 Paralympics?

Heavy conditions during the IFDS Qingdao Test event
Sailing2008.com

The Beijing 2008 Paralympic sailing regatta will be sailed in the Sonar, 2.4mR and Skud 18 classes. It starts on Sunday 8 September and finishes on Friday 13 September in Qingdao. A record 80 athletes representing 25 nations will contest this event.

While the Qingdao venue was anticipated to be a light weather venue, the Olympic sailing regatta proved that was generally not the case.

The A course, which will be used during the Parlympics, right outside Qingdao Harbour had a mixture of light and medium winds, but the tidal rip along the course meant that with a breeze of 15-18 knots, when the tide was running hard, the course quickly became difficult as the 49er Medal race showed. There was a similar discovery during the Paralympic test event as the Skud 18 picture shows here, as winds reached 20 knots in some races.

Team GB won four Gold medals at the Olympic regatta in Qingdao and similar domination could happen at this regatta ,as the British won two Gold Medals out of the three classes in the 2008 IFDS Qingdao International Regatta, which was the most recent form guide.

The British team of Niki Birrell and Alexandra Rickham won Gold in the two person keelboat Skud 18 fleet. Scott Whitman and Julia Dorsett (USA) took silver ahead of Australians Dan Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox.

The second British Gold Medal came from the three-person keelboat Sonar event, with John Robertson, Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel winning from the French team of Bruno Joudren, Hervé Larhant and Nicolas Vimont. 2004 Athens Paralympic gold medallists Dror Cohen, Arnon Efrati and Benny Vexter (ISR) took Bronze.

Athens Gold Medallist and reigning IFDS World Champion Damien Seguin goes into this weeks 2008 regatta as firm favourite in the one person keelboat 2.4 metre class. He dominated the test event ahead of Canada’s Paul Tingley with Germany’s Heiko Kroger third.

Nations Entered For Paralympic Sailing Competition By Event

Single-Person Keelboat - 2.4mR - (16 nations confirmed, 16 athletes)
Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, PR China, Puerto Rico, Spain, USA

Two-Person Keelboat - Skud 18 (11 nations confirmed, 22 athletes)
Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Malaysia, Philippines, Portugal, PR China, Singapore, Sweden, USA

Three-Person Keelboat - Sonar (14 nations confirmed, 42 athletes)
Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, PR China
USA

History of Paralympic Sailing

Sailing had started to attract sailors with a disability in the 1980s and the first international sailing competition for athletes with a disability was held in Switzerland.

In 1988 the International Handicap Sailing Committee (IHSC) was founded and began working to organise competitions and forums to promote sailing for persons with a disability. Two years later, in 1990, sailing made its debut as an exhibition sport at the World Games for the Disabled.

In 1991 the International Sailing Federation recognised the IHSC which was renamed later that year as the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS).

Sailing appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games and in 2000 was included in the Paralympic Games Competition programme as a medal sport with events for the Sonar (three person keelboat) and the 2.4mR (single-person keelboat). The sailing marina in Rushcutters Bay was host to 15 entries from the Sonar class and 17 from the 2.4mR class. The Paralympic Sailing Competition took place after the Olympic Sailing Competition, from 20 - 27 October 2000.

In 2004 sailing was included in the Paralympic Games again using the Sonar and the 2.4mR. The Agios Kosmas Sailing Centre played host to 15 entries in the three-person keelboat event and 16 in the single-person keelboat event. The Paralympic Sailing Competition took place after the Olympic Sailing Competition, from 17-23 September 2004.

A Short History of the Paralympic Games

The first Games for athletes with a disability were held in 1948 in Stoke Mandeville, England involving World War II veterans with a spinal cord injury. Four years later in 1952 athletes from the Netherlands joined the Games and the international movement, now known as the Paralympic movement, was born.

Olympic style games for athletes with a disability were organized for the first time in Rome in 1960, immediately after the Olympic Games - the first Paralympic Games. Around 400 athletes from 23 nations competed in eight sports, six of which are still included in the Paralympic Competition Programme (Archery, Swimming, Fencing, Basketball, Table Tennis and Athletics).

Since then the Paralympic Games have been organised every four years in the same year as the Olympic Games. Other disability groups were added in Toronto, Canada in 1976 and the idea was conceived of merging together different disability groups for international sport competitions. In the same year, the first Paralympic Winter Games took place in Sweden.

In 1998 the Olympic and Paralympic Games were held in the same venue for the first time and following a cooperation agreement by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) signed in 2001, this practice was secured for the future. From the 2012 bid process onwards, the host city chosen to host the Olympic Games will be obliged to host the Paralympics. In 2008, the same organizing committee will manage both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Paralympic Games have evolved into a major sports event, second only to the Olympic Games. The table below indicates the numbers of participating athletes at past Games.

Year - Venue -Country - Athletes - Nations

1952 Stoke Mandeville, GBR
1960 Rome, ITA 400, 23
1964 Tokyo, JPN 357, 21
1968 Tel Aviv, ISR 750, 29
1972 Heidelberg, GER 1004, 41
1976 Toronto, CAN 1657, 32
1980 Arnhem, NED 1973, 42
1984 Stoke Mandeville, GBR & New York, USA 1100 & 1800, 41 & 45
1988 Seoul, KOR 3053, 61
1992 Barcelona, ESP 3020, 82
1996 Atlanta, USA 3195, 103
2000 Sydney, AUS 3824, 122
2004 Athens, GRE 3806, 136

In September 2008, Beijing will welcome athletes from around the world competing in 21 sports and disciplines with a total of 471 Medal Events.

The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games will feature the richest programme and the participation will be as large as ever, underlining once more its character as an elite sporting event. The Games will involve approximately 4000 athletes (1800 wheelchair users) 2200 team officials and 800 Games Officials.