Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What’s New in Adaptive Sailing

By Sarah Everhart-Skeels and Cindy Walker

We recently had a conversation with Betsy Alison, US Paralympic Coach for the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider about the evolution of adaptive sailing in the US. We agreed that Nick Scandone winning US Sailing’s 2005 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award placed adaptive sailing on the map. Nick and his crew, Maureen McKinnon, kept the focus by winning a gold medal in the SKUD-18 event at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China. Also, 2.4 meter sailor, John Ruf won Bronze in Beijing. Nick is no longer with us, but his wife Mary Kate wrote a great book about his life that I would highly recommend, In The Nick of Time: The Nick Scandone Story.

Jen French and J.P. Creignou continued Nick and Maureen’s SKUD-18 legacy by bringing home the only US Olympic or Paralympic medal (Silver) for sailing at the London Games. Jen earned her US Sailing 2012 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award for her performance. Jen has always been dedicated to growing the sport among those who have a disability. In her acceptance speech, she reinforced the concept that sailing is a sport for all, and that boats can be adapted to those who sail them. 

A major point is that everyone can participate, side-by-side, no “special” rules apply, and with little, to no advantage given to those who might have more mobility than others because adaptations can be made to adjust for these differences. 

Which brings me to this blog… We want MORE people sailing, and my focus for this blog is to create more awareness for those with disabilities that sailing is realistic option. Many people don’t think we can sail and this attitude needs to change. There is really nothing cooler than coming upon a dock full of empty wheelchairs and scooters, piles of prosthetic limbs, white canes used by those who have visual impairments (yes, they sail too, and very well, I might add!), and other mobility devices typically seen in-use, not sitting idly on a dock.

There are over 60 programs that offer sailing for people with disabilities across the country, all of which can be found on the US Sailing website, as well as our calendar of adaptive sailing events.

US Sailing has recently published an “Adaptive Sailing Resource Manual”. The manual is the result of a collaborative effort between US Sailing and IFDS (the International Association for Disabled Sailing) and designed to be a comprehensive resource to assist in establishing adaptive sailing programs within community sailing centers, yacht clubs and anywhere else you can find a sailboat. You can preview or download the manual.

Stay tuned to this blog for more information about what’s going on in the world of adaptive sailing. Be sure to check out our “Pioneer Program” where we will be featuring adaptive sailing programs and providing a closer look at what each program is offering.

We will also be providing access to special guest  contributors who will be discussing anything from Paralympic class boats, to leisure sailing, to types of adaptive equipment,  and living on a sailboat,. If you have any questions or comments you’d like posted or discussed please direct them to Cindy Walker at Stick around, stay tuned, participate in the discussion, and see you out on the water!


  1. Great start Sarah and Cindy. Look forward to reading more.

  2. Whoa, first to comment! Good job Sarah and Cindy, this blog will help us lots of folks with programs or looking to start programs, plus lots of other good info!

  3. Good job Sarah and Cindy. This blog will definitely help folks starting new programs or running existing programs, plus other good info!

  4. Oops, it said no comments, but looks like you got there first Bill!

  5. Sarah & Cindy,
    I have a very good idea regarding how much work goes into the creation of such a document. The importance of the hours and effort you must have put in develop and publish this manual cannot be overstated. Your results are spectacular and will serve the disabled community well. This document is the cornerstone for the foundation of the US Sailing program for success at the next Paralympics.