Sport week: History of sailing

Sailing has been contested at every Paralympic Games since its introduction as a demonstration event at Atlanta 1996. 14 Jul 2016
Woman in sailing boat.

Great Britain's 2.4mR sailor Helena Lucas won gold at the 2016 Sailing World Cup in Miami, USA.

ⒸJesus Renedo/Sailing Energy/World Sailing
By James Johnston | For the IPC

Rio 2016 will be the fifth time that sailing is featured at the Paralympic Games, being fully introduced for the first time at Sydney 2000. It was, however, initially staged at Atlanta 1996 but as a demonstration event.

With sailing yet to be officially classified, just one event in the sonar class took place 20 years ago, with 15 countries competing.

Great Britain won this event and despite its unofficial status, all four crew members were awarded with medals. Canada sealed silver and the USA grabbed bronze.

Following the success of this demonstration event in Atlanta, sailing became part of the Paralympic programme at Sydney 2000.

As well as the sonar class, a one person keelboat event in the form of the 2.4mR class (former 2.4 Norlin OD) was added with male and female competitors eligible to compete in both classes.

Host Australia became the first nation in Paralympic history to win the sailing gold medal in the sonar event, with Germany’s Heiko Kroeger becoming the first solo Paralympic champion in the 2.4mR class.

In total 22 countries were represented by the 62 athletes who competed.

At Athens 2004, Damien Seguin claimed France’s first Paralympic gold in the 2.4mR class, whilst Israel won the title in the sonar event.

The following Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008 saw a record number of competitors. In total 80 athletes from 26 countries were involved, eclipsing the mark set eight years earlier.

This was largely due to the introduction of the SKUD 18 class to the Paralympic programme, meaning that sailing had been upped from two events to three.

The US pair of Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon Tucker won the first Paralympic gold medal for SKUD 18.

On the other hand, the sonar event was comprised of only 14 boats, compared to the 15 crews that competed in 2000 and 2004.

It also meant that for the first time, there were classes for one, two and three person keelboats.

History was made again at London 2012 when Great Britain’s Helena Lucas became the first individual female to win Paralympic gold in sailing.

Lucas was the only female competitor in the 2.4mR class and she managed to finish ahead of Sydney 2000 gold medallist Heiko Kroeger.

Editor’s note: Each sport on the Rio 2016 Paralympic programme will have a dedicated week of featured content published on Every week a new sport will be featured and the series will run until September’s Games, helping the public understand more about the 22 sports being contested in Rio.


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