Competition at the Highest Levels



Paralympic sailing is a series of tough races on high, sometimes turbulent seas. It was first introduced to the Paralympics in 1996 as a demonstration sport, and was included in the official program for the 2000 Games.

In 2012, the course is laid out in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbor, about 3 hours southwest of London by train. Sailors must race around the buoys on the course, using strategy and skill to be quickest across the finish line. As in golf, the lowest score wins the race. Athletes gain points – and lose standing -- the further back they finish. They also add points for disqualifiers like a false start.

Sailors race on three different kinds of boats. The 2.4 meter is a single-person boat, the SKUD 18 crews with two people, and the Sonar takes on three sailors.

Boats are configured to suit the different sailors’ adaptive needs. Mark LeBlanc of Team USA, for example, is missing one arm below the elbow and steers his one-person keelboat with foot pedals. Other sailors use a forward tiller.

These disabilities may not prevent them from competing against able-bodied sailors: Team USA’s Nick Scandone and John Ruf have each won the Open 2.4mR World Championships against able-bodied sailors.

Top Contenders:
• U.S.A., Canada, and Germany won top medals for the three sailing events in 2008.
• The U.S. has brought at least one medal home every Summer Paralympics since sailing became a medal sport in 2000.

Paralympics 2012 Competition: Sept. 1 – Sep. 6

Athlete Classifications

Sailing is open to athletes with various disabilities, and men and women compete together. Competitors are ranked according to a points system where low points are given to the severely disabled and high points to the less disabled.

Sailing is also divided into three boat classes, according to “classifiable” disabilities that range from single or double amputation to legal blindness.

Class Disability

Sonar (for 3-person crew)

The crew must have a total of 14 points or less.


Must include one woman and one person, male or female, with classifiable disabilit(ies).


Solo sailors with classifiable disabilit(ies).

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