Members of the British B1 and B3 visually impaired sailing teams are making their way to Windermere today for a weekend training session ahead of Chicago hosted 2015 Blind World Fleet Racing Championship. The team was formally named last month and includes Sharon Grennan, Vicki Sheen, Martin Moodey and Ian Shirra in the B1 boat, and Laura Cammidge, Chris Albert, Jonny Cormack and Jonny Stevenson in the B3 boat. They are being coached by Hannah Stodel.
Behind the scenes, fundraising efforts have continued to support sailors, to fund their kit, equipment and costs of traveling to compete in the event. In April, Blind Sailing UK had announced a goal of raising £20,000 and they are still a bit short of that goal.
Visually impaired sailors have also been participating in events like last month’s South Coast blind sailing week, which saw people coming from as far away as Tunisia to participate.
For vision impaired sailors, Blind World Fleet Racing Championship is often the most important on their competition schedule. The Paralympic Games have no VI only specific classes, and VI sailors can only participate in SKUD 18 and Sonar. SKUD 18 requires one female sailor and one severely disabled sailor with 1 or 2 classification points. Sonar allows a maximum of 14 points in the three person boat. B1 sailors have 3 points, B2 sailors have 5 points and B3 sailors have 7 points. This can make it challenging for these sailors to get spots on Paralympic boats.
At last year’s World Championships, Vicki Sheen led the British team at the U.S. Sailing Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin finished first in the Category 2 event after beating the Italians to sweep their event. Members of the British side included Lucy Hodges and Liam Cattermole.