Paralympic Sailing

Dan and Liesl action

Image courtesy of World Sailing/Ocean Images

Sailing started to attract sailors with a disability in the 1980s and the first international sailing competition for athletes with a disability was held in Switzerland.

In 1988 the International Handicap Sailing Committee (IHSC) was founded and began working to organise competitions and forums to promote sailing for persons with a disability. Two years later, in 1990, sailing made its debut as an exhibition sport at the World Games for the Disabled.

In 1991 the International Sailing Federation recognised the IHSC, which was renamed later that year as the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS).

Sailing appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games and in 2000 gained full Paralympic sport status at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. It was included in the Paralympic Games Competition programme as a medal sport with events for the Sonar (three person keelboat) and the 2.4mR (single-person keelboat).

The same events were on show at Athens 2004 before the SKUD18 was introduced for the Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games as the equipment for the two-person dinghy outlining the evolution of sailing at the Games.

Paralympic Sailing is open to athletes with a limb loss / limb deficiency, cerebral palsy / brain injury, vision impairment, spinal and nerve injuries and other physical impairments. Athletes must navigate a set course in a faster time than their opponents.

Athletes compete in three events, which are non-gender specific: The single-person and three-person keelboats are open to most impairment groups.  The two-person keelboat event is specifically designed for athletes with a severe impairment.

Sailing has been discarded from the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020; however, the sailing community is working to have the sport reinstated for the Paralympics in 2024.


Paralympic Boat Classes

-      Single-Person Keelboat (2.4mR)

-      Two-Person Keelboat (SKUD18)

-      Three-Person Keelboat (Sonar)

About the Paralympic Boat Classes

International 2.4mR

Matt Bugg in action at London 2012 - photo onEdition

2.4mR boats are single-handed keelboats and are designed under the same rule as the 12m America's Cup boats. They are 4.1m long and weigh 260kg. Their design allows the helm to sit amidships holding all the instruments for controlling the boat craft and navigating, at a distance roughly equal to that of the arms when outstretched.



For Paralympic competition the SKUD18 will be a strict one design class with two sailors seated on the centreline. The SKUD18 is 5.8m in length and weighs 380kgs. This boat has been designed from a performance basis, to offer scintillating, crisp and snappy response to sailors regardless of their ability/mobility.

Three-Person Keelboat (Sonar)


To ensure the participation of athletes from all classes of impairment, there is a maximum point count, which a crew of three persons must not exceed. The total crew is allowed a maximum of 14 points.

The Sonar class has a fixed keel, a length of 7m (23 feet), and a weight of 950kg. Sonar has three sails - main sail, jib, and spinnaker, but when used for Paralympic sailing, the crew uses the mainsail and jib only.

The Sonar provides the option of sailing together with a crew of various impairments and, because of its size and flexibility, allows many different adaptive aids to be incorporated into the boats to assist those sailors with more severe impairments.


Who is eligible for Paralympic Class Sailing?

Athletes with a vision impairment or physical impairment such as e.g. spinal or nerve injury, limb loss or limb deficiency, cerebral palsy or other similar impairment.

What are the classes?

Athletes are classified into classes depending on their functional ability in classification points 1 – 7

Athletes with a vision impairment: Classification points 3,5 or 7.
Athletes with a physical impairment: Classification points 1 to 7.
Sailors may also be given a classification of TPA or TPB if they compete in the Two-Person Keelboat (SKUD18).

Classification Rules, Forms, Policies and Procedures:  View International and National Sailing Classification resources.