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Zhik 2018 Yacht 728x90

Gladwell's Line - Parasailing back on track

by Richard Gladwell on 7 May 2017
SKUD 18 - 2016 Paralympics - Day 5, September 17, 2016 Richard Langdon / World Sailing
One of the unreported aspects of the World Masters Games sailed at Torbay, was the fact that three Paralympic sailors competed in the Weta events alongside the age-challenged sailors. In fact the Parasailors won two medals against the able-bodied fleet.

News out this week from World Sailing is that Parasailing has bounced back from its position of not having the numbers to meet minimum criteria (32 countries in four continents) at Parasailing World Championships to maintain its place at the Paralympics.

The entry list for the 2017 World ParaSailing Championships, to be held as part of Kiel Week has 39 countries represented - putting down a strong marker for Parasailing to be re-included in the 2024 Paralympics - a decision that gets made in 2018.

A skim down the classes list shows that instead of just three classes the list has grown to five classes - with the 2.4 Norlin OD retaining is place as an open gender single-handed event, with a second keelboat - the Hansa 303 having male and female divisions.

The Skud 18 which was designed by Julian Bethwaite specifically for Parasailing has been retained. It was under threat for factors we don't fully understand, but which presumably included cost. But on the positive side, it is the most telegenic of the former Paralympic classes and can be designated for competition by sailors of differing grades of disability. The Skud 18 is being sailed at Kiel in its Paralympic designation as a two person keelboat.

The new addition is the Weta, the New Zealand developed trimaran - which can be sailed as either a single hander or as a two-handed class.

For the Parasailing Worlds, the Weta is set down as an open gender two person multihull.

As so often happens with class selection for Olympic sailing events the temptation is always to take a prescriptive approach and impose a class selection on the sailors - with World Sailing appearing to be of the view that in winning selection, manufacturers will pick up orders from the state-sponsored teams.

What seems to be lost in the Parasailing class debate is to select boats which allow Parasailors to compete alongside able-bodied sailors on a near equal basis.

The single handed 2.4 Norlin OD class achieves this benchmark, and so does the Weta, with some impressive work being put in by Paralympians on the Waitemata both single handing the Weta with main jib and gennaker, and going through a capsize drill.

The key benefit of having classes that can be sailed by Paralympic and able-bodied sailors is just one of numbers. Simply the bigger the numbers competing in a class - the better the racing looks - and the best advertisement for any class is numbers on the water.

The line-up of classes for Kiel are a re-shaping of the Parasailing fleet, with the three-person Sonar class being dropped and the Weta and two new singlehanded, gender specific single handed keelboats coming in.

The only negative seems to be in the entry lists, with the single handed classes pulling the numbers and the two handed classes struggling for entries - assuming the published list is correct and up to date.

However, that disparity should not be significant in the medium to long term assessment as both classes have good numbers in the sailing world, and the Weta, in particular, is well distributed, and with able-bodied class associations established in several countries and regions.

The America's Cup clock is ticking down in Bermuda.

Three weeks from today the Qualifiers will get underway.

Another ten days must pass until the next round of Practice Racing gets underway - another five-day session getting underway on May 15.

Until then the six teams continue to update their AC50's and then strut their stuff on Bermuda's Great Sound.

While we have run the videos, the take-outs are a little difficult to define.

Certainly, there are some spectacular splash-downs - which if they happened in a race would surely determine the outcome.

Some are real show-stoppers.

What we aren't seeing is the light weather performance which the locals all tell us will be expected condition in June.

To date, we have seen a lot of sailing in winds at the top end of the scale 15-20kts mostly and on some days up to 25kts - with a wide variety in direction.

But in June, according to airport weather data, there is a significant change as the wind swings more into the SSW and is below 16kts.

That's more typical of what Emirates Team New Zealand have been experiencing in the training paddock to the east of Browns Island.

But as we all know - when a major regatta is on the wind never blows the way it normally does - and Bermuda will probably be no different.

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