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Blind Match Racers Challenge the Women

Blind Match Racers Challenge the Women

Blind Match Racers Challenge the Women

– sailors stuck ashore due to fog in Sheboygan

Fog and lack of wind continue to cause problems for the Buddy Melges Challenge, the 3rd event of the 2016 WIM Series and also the Women’s World Match Racing Championship. In the difficult Thursday conditions, Principal Race Officer Rich Reichelsdorfer couldn’t get any racing at all going:
“It looked good for a little bit around midday, but then the fog rolled in again” he sighs.

However, there is one category of sailors in Sheboygan right now that don’t care at all about the fog. As a matter of fact they don’t even care about darkness. They’re simply ready to go match racing in any visibility conditions. Who are they? The blind sailors from five nations who are in Sheboygan for their Blind Match Racing World Championship, run parallel to the women’s event. But unfortunately they need sighted people to put out their buoys, set a proper course and umpire the racing, so they weren’t allowed to race on Thursday either.

Instead of match racing on Lake Michigan, the sailors gathered Thursday afternoon at the Sheboygan Yacht Club courtyard. There the blind sailors through land exercises demonstrated and gave the sighted women sailors some insight into how their match racing works. First of all the blind sailors have the same course, the same umpires and pretty much the same set of rules as the sighted women sailors. And they are sailing the slightly different Sonar boats instead of the Elliott 6Ms. The really big difference is that they use a number of different sounds to mark their racing course, as well as to describe what tack each boat is sailing on.

The sighted sailor, who thinks it’s enough of a problem to sort out the normal sound signals from the committee boat, may have become just a little bit more confused during the demonstration. The blind sailors are forced to keep all the following signals in mind:
Two signals from the buoys marking the starting line, one of which is also the bottom mark.
A special sound from the weather mark.
Two different sounds from a tweeting box in each boat, signalling whether the boat is on port or on starboard tack, in order to know who’s supposed to give way.

To distinguish all these signals is hard for any sailor on a shore demonstration, but proves even worse out there on the water. An experience some of the sighted sailors got as they, with completely black goggles covering their eyes, went out to sail practise races against a blind team led by British skipper Vicki Sheen:
“Your world is what you feel underneath you, and with your fingertips. You’re feeling everything through your hands and through your body, since you’ve got such a reduced visual sense” she explains how she’s helming her boat.

For Canadian sighted skipper Elizabeth Shaw, the practise race against the blind team was, if we may call it so, an eye-opener:
“We had the two marks beeping, we had the tweeting boxes going off on our boat and on their boat, and then there was a fog horn going off, and then there was a bit of noise within our boat and motorboats going around. It got very confusing, very quickly” she sums up.
“It’s pretty incredible what those athletes are able to achieve and focus on. Everybody has a job on board, it’s just like what we do, but you take away your sense of sight” she notes.

So the day was not completely wasted, as the blind racers earned new respect from the top women match racers at the World Championship.


The Women’s International Match Racing Series (WIM Series) is the first and only professional sailing series for women, hosted by the Women’s International Match Racing Association and joined by the world’s leading women match racing sailors. Match racing is sailed in two identical boats around a short course, providing fast action close to the crowds on shore. The intense racing is just as exciting for the spectators as it is strategically, tactically and physically challenging for the competing crews.

An overall prize purse of 50 000 USD will be distributed by the WIM Series in addition to the prize money at each of the four events included in the 2016 WIM Series (date, event name, location, boat type):

  • June 27 – July 1, Helsinki Women’s Match, Helsinki, Finland, J/80.
  • August 8 – 13, Lysekil Women’s Match, Lysekil, Sweden, DS 37.
  • September 20 – 25, Women’s Match Racing World Championship & Buddy Melges Challenge, Sheboygan, USA, Elliott 6m.
  • October 25 – 29, Busan Cup Women’s International Match Race, Busan, South Korea, K30.
  • December 1 – 4, Carlos Aguilar Match Race, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, IC 24.

The WIM Series is hosted by WIMRA. Official suppliers are Sailnet, Sebago, MILK, Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan, Adstream, Intertidal Ventures, Fredag and Match Racing Results Service.

Images: A number of hi-res images are available for download on

More information about the Women’s International Match Racing Series:
WIM Series Press Officer Joakim Hermansson,, +46 70 604 25 04
WIM Series Manager Liz Baylis,, +1 415 691 6202

The Buddy Melges Challenge has been an ISAF Grade One match racing event in Sheboygan, USA, for a number of years. The event is named after the famous Olympian, America’s Cup sailor, boat builder, and Wisconsinite Buddy Melges, whose contributions to the sport have been long standing. The trophy for the event resides in the Sheboygan Yacht Club, and is a replica of the America’s Cup.

More information about the Buddy Melges Challenge:
Buddy Melges Challenge Press Officer Janet Weyandt,, +1 920 980 6894

The World Sailing Women’s Match Racing World Championship is an annual event that was first held in Genoa, Italy in 1999, after a successful event was held as part of the 1998 ISAF Sailing World Championship in Dubai, UAE. Skippers are invited to attend the Championship based on their World Sailing Match Racing Ranking position. Denmark’s Dorte Jensen is the most successful sailor, having amassed four World Championship titles.

World Sailing Communications Department,, + 44 2380 635 111