Latest News

International Association for Disabled Sailing gets responses from 32 MNAs about disability sailing

Sailing pictogram

In response to the announcement that sailing had been cut from the 2020 Paralympic program,  International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) sent out a survey on February 10 to Member National Associations (MNAs) and a month later, have had responses from 32 different MNAs. These responses came from Armenia, Australia, Bermuda, Botswana, Canada, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Romania, Singapore, Sweden, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, and Vanuatu.  These surveys are due back to the organization by March 31.



Of these MNAs, a ParaSport News investigation found the MNAs who reported back, ten do not have IFDS classified sailors. These include Armenia, Bermuda, Botswana, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Denmark, Qatar, Romania, United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu. Eleven of the countries who returned surveys do not appear to have sent national delegations to compete in an ISAF/IFDS sanctioned international event or national championships in the past four years. These include Armenia, Bermuda, Botswana, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Qatar, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Vanuatu.


Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Guatemala, Italy, Netherlands Antilles, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Turkey and Virgin Islands all have ISAF classified sailors but have not responded yet to the IFDS survey.  Without these surveys, it is unclear how ISAF/IFDS has the ability to even begin to get to the IPC requirement number of 32.


Other than direct reporting MNAs regarding their participation in ISAF/IFDS sanctioned international event or national championships, it is unclear how the organization could present an argument for inclusion on the 2020 Program as major events often have able-bodied sailors competing alongside disabled sailors in the 2.4 m event to make up low disability sailor participation numbers at important international events.  At the same time, ISAF/IFDS records do not make distinctions between national delegations competing at an event, and boats with sailors from the same country.  This leads to situations where you may have two boats from Australia and three from Great Britain, but are unable from the records alone to determine which, if any boat, was the MNA recognized one.


The current IFDS system appears to allow for able-bodied athletes to compete with the ability to get more points as more functionally disabled while not actually having a disability.  The point system gives anon-IBSA classified competitor 1 point if “A competitor may agree to wear an approved blindfold to classify him/her as B1.”  Other ways this is apparently gotten around is to list events as Open, instead of disability to allow sailors a chance to compete.  On the Paralympic level for other sports, elite athletes competing at national team events are not competing at sanctioned events against able-bodied competitions.  IFDS appears unique in the Paralympic movement as a Paralympic sport in that they allow this, and do not make any such distinction in race results to indicate when this is occurring.  For example,  in wheelchair basketball, 5 point players are able bodied players.  Internationally, 5 point players are not allowed to compete and most countries do not allow 5 point players to participate in the elite national level competitions to further develop the sport.  The 5 point player status would be clearly visible on any team list to make it clear the different functional levels of participation.


So far, ParaSport News has been unable to find an IFDS/ISAF comment, press release. Twitter update or Facebook post that indicates they have started to strategically plan to shift away from this format.  An addendum published in December 2014 to the  IFDS Race Management Manual also does not appear to address this issue.



Laura Hale
About Laura Hale (2569 Articles)
Laura Hale is a sport journalist, specializing in Paralympic and disability sport news. Prior to helping found ParaSport-News, she spent two and a half years working as a journalist on Wikinews, a citizen journalism site. As a journalist, she has covered the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, and a number of other sporting events. She has additional experience with Paralympic sport having worked as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian and Spanish Paralympic Committees. She has a PhD in Communications from the University of Canberra.

1 Comment on International Association for Disabled Sailing gets responses from 32 MNAs about disability sailing

  1. It amazes me that it is viewed by some as a negative thing that sailing has developed a system for an equal playing field good enough for able-bodied to compete against severely disabled as equals. It’s almost as if they want less rather than more integration between disabled and able-bodied sports. Is it hard to cope with the fact that some disabled may be as skilled as able-bodied?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


%d bloggers like this: