“If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If it is worth having, it is worth waiting for. If it is worth attaining, it is worth fighting for. If it is worth experiencing, it is worth putting aside time for.” That’s a bit of Oscar Wilde for you, this Friday morning and it relates beautifully to World Sailing’s magnificent attempts to get Para Sailing back on to the roster for Los Angeles 2028.
This is the fight of our lives as a sport and it’s of such importance that we must all do what we can to #BacktheBid and double-down on efforts to support our often maligned, but oh-so-on-the-right-track, governing body. Get a card this weekend, scribble the hashtag and post it to your social media standing in front of whatever vessel you take to the waters, wherever you may be. It matters. It means something. It’s worth fighting for.
Good things are happening all around Para sailing and credit where it’s due, RS Sailing has literally knocked it out of the park with their RS Venture Connect, the self-righting, made for the Paralympics, version of the popular trainer RS Venture class. Not only does it have a lifting bulb keel but it’s the ultimate plug and play, adaptable for almost any disability and allows the able-bodied to accompany with ease. It’s genius. One of the greatest innovations of our sport that deserves every design accolade coming its way. Phil Morrison is a genius.
And World Sailing jumped on the opportunity with the announcement that the first Under 25 World Championship will be taking place from the 19th-22nd July up at the Watersportvereniging Brassemermeer Yacht Club (try saying that three beers in) in Southern Holland, sailed in the RS Venture Connects.
Furthermore, just ahead of the championships, the World Sailing gang will be hosting coaching sessions to get everyone up to speed and familiar with the boats. This is the pathway in action. It’s brilliant and I quote Massimo Dighe, Para Sailing Manager at World Sailing, “As seen in regattas around the world, Para Sailing is one of the most inclusive in terms of age, gender and disability. This U25 Para Sailing World Championship is another step in ensuring there is a pathway for the next generation of Para Sailors from grassroots to elite level, providing a means to compete on the global stage – inside and outside of the Paralympic programme.”
That’s the key right there. Yes it’s important, hugely, vitally important, that Para sailing is seen at the apex under the Olympic flame but it’s equally important that the grass-roots flourish outside of the white-hot competition. It’s vital that opportunity is given widely and generously to those with disabilities, no matter what, to experience and enjoy our sport and gain the skills to perhaps move forward into competition. It’s on us all to make that happen. To support. To give time. To give back. And to create a flourishing base from which those that wish to go further and on into the pantheon of the five-ring circus have the chance to do so.
But to generate a solid, relentless base – a machine if you like – that spits out the champions at the top of the pyramid, it’s so important that the #BacktheBid campaign for Los Angeles 2028 is successful.
Certain Member National Authorities (MNAs) are pulling all the stops out on this and they should be congratulated and encouraged to keep going. As an example I note that the Malta Sailing federation has just taken delivery of three Hansa boats this month with another on the way and these will be distributed to each of the four clubs on the island to encourage Para sailing. Fantastic. Mike Mifsud, President of the Malta sailing Federation, is a visionary and a shining light. We need more Mike’s if this is going to truly work. MNAs can obsess about their able-bodied Olympic teams and athletes all they like but they should be judged on their approach to Para sailing. The blueprint is there. Just do it.
In the UK, details about Para sailing are sketchy at best. The RYA, Britain’s bastion of sailing, has a section on their website under their ‘racing’ title that is almost an embarrassment. It must do better. Yes it goes on to detail the Challenger class, the Hansa, the RS Venture Connect, the 2.4m class and GBR Blind Sailing in limited terms and throws onus back on member clubs but it’s not as front and centre as I would like to see nor as prominent as it needs to be to #BacktheBid. Sara Sutcliffe, the new CEO, needs a flea in her ear over this one. Just saying.
But World Sailing’s strategic plan that you can read HERE is a good one. I particularly like the inclusion section where it covers Blind Sailors, Autonomous Blind Match-Racing, those with intellectual disability, deaf and hearing impaired sailors alongside a drive for more youth inclusion culminating in the Under 25s championship. This is great. It moves the dial and having a vision makes a difference and sets the compass forward.
Sailing can do this. There’s enough good people in our fabulous sport, enough connected to the matrix, who can ace the #SailtoLA race. We all have a part to play though and it’s the one race we simply must win.