NOVEMBER 2017 BSI NEWSLETTER
Contents: Chairman’s Message; BSI Website Development; BSI Mission Statement; BSI Five-Year Strategic Aims & Website Goals; 2017 Blind Fleet Racing World Championship Final Press Release; Sheboygan Roundtable Summary; BJ Blahnik Commentary; GBR Blind Sailing Commentary; Duane Farrar/Wind Whisperers Commentary
Dear BSI Members and Supporters:
2017 has been an eventful year for BSI. To recap briefly:
In early March, Houston Yacht Club withdrew from hosting the 2017 Blind Fleet Racing World Championships (BFRWC) due to insurance and liability concerns. In the end, this proved fortuitous for blind sailors, as Hurricane Harvey brought catastrophic flooding to the greater Houston area and elsewhere just two weeks prior to the nominal regatta start date.
In response to the withdrawal, other organizations immediately offered to explore hosting the event. After intense efforts by all parties involved, in early May Sail Sheboygan in Wisconsin was able to secure approval from World Sailing to host the BFRWC regatta in September 2017 as scheduled. As a result, blind sailors from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and the United States — a total of 14 crews – were able to sail a total of 52 races across three vision categories (B1, B2 & B3) in Sheboygan from September 11 – 17. The press release summarizing the regatta and results is included in this newsletter.
Blind Sailing Roundtable in Sheyboygan
During the regatta week blind sailors came together Wednesday, September 13th in an open forum to discuss various issues facing blind sailing, facilitated by Liz Baylis, executive director of the Women’s International Match Racing Association (WIMRA) and by Stacie Straw. Baylis and Straw together won the 2002 ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship. A summary of the discussion is included in this newsletter. It is a “must read” for anyone interested in raising the profile of blind sailing and expanding opportunities for blind sailors everywhere.
2018 Blind Match Racing World Championship Update
For 2018, BSI has also been looking ahead, working with the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club (RNCYC) to complete a proposal to host the 2018 Blind Match Racing World Championship (BMRWC) in Scotland next September.
The RNCYC has previously hosted national and international match racing events, and has a competitive fleet of Sonars. It is a friendly and professional club in a beautiful location on the Clyde.
Sailors at the September forum in Sheboygan suggested the possibility of holding the 2018 BMRWSC in conjunction with the Paralympic World Sailing Championship (PWSC) at their planned 2018 PWSC regatta in Sheboygan.
This would have:
- Staged the BMRWC event alongside other disabled and Paralympic classes and sailors.
- Returned to Sheboygan’s excellent facilities with:
- Known equipment and matched boats.
- Race management familiar with blind sailing.
- Raised the profile of the event.
The idea had sufficient merit to warrant asking the Paralympic World Sailing Committee (PWSC) in October to consider the Sheboygan option. The decision from the PWSC is NOT to have BMRWC return to Sheboygan in 2018 for the following reasons:
- Sheboygan has hosted the 2014 and 2016 Blind Match Race Worlds and the 2017 Blind Fleet Race Worlds.
- World Sailing has already signed the contract with Sheboygan to host the 2018 Paralympic World Sailing Championships.
- Events should be rotated between countries and region to guarantee equal opportunity for sailors from across the world.
Though it is not possible for 2018, BSI will work with the PWSC to explore and progress the opportunity for Blind World Championships to be hosted as part of Paralympic Championships at future World Sailing events.
Welcome Silvia Parente (Italy) to BSI Executive Committee
Earlier this month we added another individual to the BSI Executive Committee – Silvia Parente, of Milan, Italy, representing Europe. She won the first Homerus World Championship competition in June, 2010, sailing with Gigi Bertanza on Lake Garda in Northern Italy. Silvia is looking forward to linking and supporting VI sailing in other European countries struggling to establish blind sailing programmes. Benvenuti a BSI, Silvia!
BSI Website Updates
We continue to develop and expand our BSI website, while at the same time posting new information regularly. There is an ongoing site development plan aligned with BSI’s Mission Statement. Details of this effort are included in the newsletter, starting directly after this message, together with the text of the BSI Mission Statement. Please review these items and continue sending me your comments, thoughts, ideas or offers to help with the website and advancing blind sailing.
The BSI website address is:
BSI’s Facebook page is here:
BSI on twitter: @BSIblindsailin (Please note: the “g” at the end is intentionally missing.)
BSI will keep blind sailors informed about next year’s Match Racing Regatta in Scotland, and please keep us informed about your regional and national competitions.
With gratitude for all the sailors and supporters around the world who helped make this such a successful year in blind sailing!
— Vicki Sheen Chairman, Blind Sailing International (BSI)
BSI WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT PROJECT – WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Two members of the Boston sailing team – Kay (Kay) VanValkenburgh and Christian (Thax) Thaxton – have volunteered to develop the BSI website on a new platform. This plan would enable the following improvements and additional functionality:
Bringing together all vision-impaired sailing information into one place.
Present information that will be accessible for people with low or no vision.
Create a messaging or forum capability for group discussions.
Provide a mechanism for voting, surveys, questionnaires and other feedback tracking. This is essential if we are to capture a range of views from sailors and others to guide the future development of vision-impaired sailing.
Provide role-based logins, which would allow individuals and groups (e.g. fleets, national bodies and BSI) to publish information to their own sections of the site.
Allows groups to share content in their own section with other organizations, which can then reuse, promote and adapt it as desired. An example might be sharing how to partner with secondary schools to involve blind students in sailing.
Kay and Thax will use the BSI Mission statement and strategic aims and priorities to guide the incremental development of the site. This is YOUR website, so we need your input. Interested in helping shape the future of BSI? Share in the site creation process? Offer feedback and suggestions? If so, please take time to read the BSI Mission Statement and priorities list and consider how the website might support these goals.
Please share your ideas, suggestions and espcially, offers to help by contacting Vicki Sheen firstname.lastname@example.org
BLIND SAILING INTERNATIONAL (BSI) MISSION STATEMENT
Blind Sailing International (BSI) is formed to support the development and conduct of sailing in all its forms with blind and vision-impaired people, world-wide.
Goals And Objectives
To promote sailing for blind and vision-impaired people as a sport and recreation.
To provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and information and to develop teaching systems for sailing with blind and vision-impaired people.
To promote and conduct international sailing competitions not less frequently than every 4½ years.
To support regional competitions, seminars, and instructional programmes.
To establish and co-ordinate the activities of sub-committees, working parties, and task forces as required by members.
BSI Five-Year Strategic Aims:
Promote and support all V.I. sailing opportunities, particularly in relation to competitive sailing.
Promote and support the expansion of the number of blind and vision-impaired people participating in sailing and sailing competitions; increase the number of countries in which blind and vision-impaired people can participate in sailing and sailing competitions.
Promote and support the organisation of international, national, regional and local sailing competitions.
Support World Sailing and the Paralympic World Sailing Committee (PWSC) and work to develop and promote the inclusion of V.I. sailing formats and V.I. sailors at the highest competitive levels including Paralympic competition
Work with the International Blind Sporting Association (IBSA) and other groups to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the impact of vision impairment on sport, particularly in relation to sailing.
Lead the evaluation and development of competitive V.I. sailing formats such as blind fleet and match racing; continue to evaluate techniques and technologies to enhance and expand V.I. sailing capabilities.
Strategic Aims & BSI Website
To accomplish the strategic aims listed above, BSI will need to expand its capacity to reach blind sailors around the world. A re-vamped BSI website is a key element in this outreach and expansion strategy.
Here is a short description of the website objectives:
Create an accessible web-based information resource for use by all blind and vision-impaired sailors globally. This includes: online calendars, event notices, online registrations of interest, crew lists, forums, surveys, international and regional bulletins and newsletters, blind sailing-specific training materials, set up notes, guidance, inspirational stories, contact and location information for clubs, centres and individuals for practical help, along with archives of images, results and other materials.
Here are some of the specific suggestions for website capabilities:
Use the site as a “window” on the range and depth of V.I. sailing activity. Capture the commitment, enthusiasm and passion of blind sailors. Use forums to guide and share with sailors the choices they have in pursuit of their blind sailing activities.
Use forums and surveys to provide two-way communication.
Share ideas, such as leading the development of technology to support V.I. sailing; for example, the development and expansion of the use of sound buoys.
A resource area containing articles, equipment descriptions, contact information and a forum for sharing ideas, discoveries and successes.
Develop teaching systems for sailing with blind and vision-impaired people; resource lists and sources; training and development of instructors/sailors, working and sailing with blind and vision-impaired sailors.
Promote and support seminars, instructional programmes and clinics.
Surveys which could support research or decision-making.
Establish, facilitate and co-ordinate activities of sub-groups, working parties and task forces
Interactive spaces designated to specific groups of people or themes e.g. Chairman’s blog providing a running update on future championship organisation and discussions with World Sailing
Provide regular news bulletins and updates.
Keep a historical record of entries and results of previous World Championships and other V.I. sailing competitions.
Photo archives of blind sailors and blind sailing.
Host links to other blind sailing resources: Facebook, twitter, ??
Achieving some or all of the above is a massive undertaking. It will require not only the amazing gift of technical assistance and time from Kay and Thax, but also considerable help from and support by every blind and vision-impaired sailor who cares about the future of the V.I. sailing community. Please email me with your thoughts, comments and offers to help.
Vicki Sheen, Chairman
Blind Sailing International
2017 BLIND FLEET RACING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL PRESS RELEASE
USA Defends Gold in B1 Division
Great Britain Claims the Squadron Cup
Sheboygan, Wisconsin September 17: After six intense days of racing at the 2017 Blind Sailing World Championship culminated by having the best blind sailors in the world show off their skills.
Each day presented the sailors with different conditions, but in the end 52 races were sailed by the 51 sailors. “When you combine the high quality sailboats, provided by SEAS, with very competitive individuals, once again it was proven that a visual impairment does not define these sailors. The sailors defined their individuality when the best sailors, who happen to be blind, were presented gold for their respective countries”, said BJ Blahnik, event coordinator.
Each team is comprised of four sailors: A visually impaired helm and main trimmer along with a sighted tactician and jib trimmer. The three divisions are defined by the level of visual impairment of the sailors: B1 division has a totally blind helm and totally or mostly blind main trimmer; B2 division has a mostly blind helm and main trimmer; and the B3 division has partially blind helm and main trimmer.
The Championship was originally going to be held in Houston, TX, but they had to cancel in March, not knowing their foresight of Hurricane Harvey. “Without the determination and tenacity of the organizing team, this event would have been lost. The blind sailing teams and their twelve months of hard training and aspirations would have been unfulfilled. Instead of disappointment and a lost opportunity, we have seen hard-fought battles, close competition and achievement,” said Vicki Sheen, Chairman of Blind Sailing International.
The very strong squad from GBR came out on top in the Squadron Cup with wins in the B2 and B3 divisions and a close runner-up position in the B1 division to clinch the trophy for the top team.
Lucy Hodges (GBR) and her team, Toby Davey on main, Ben Hazeldine as tactician and Colin Midgley on jib, were more than convincing in their victory in the B2 division with a flawless scoreline of only 1st place finishes.
The podium positions in the B1 division were up in the air until the final day of racing with a tie at the top and another for the bronze. When the B1 division come on the water in the afternoon for their final three races, the racing was intense. Some aggressive starts were seen with match racing tactics on display as the tied teams pushed each other around maneuvering for controlling positions. Duane Farrar (USA) and his Team Wind Whisperers including Amy Bower on main, tactician Denis Bell and Andrew Alletag as trimmer, won the day with a first, third and second in the final races and net score of 31 to secure the gold medal for the second time.
The battle for the top of the B3 division was an intra-squad fight between the two British B3 teams skippered by Laura Cammidge and Mark Austen.
Sail Sheboygan is the US Sailing Center of Sheboygan to develop abilities in sailing and seamanship in individuals to the extent of their capacity. We believe that regardless of age, income, ability, or disability those who come to understand the fundamentals of sail trim, teamwork, and seamanship understand more about themselves, their fellows, and their world.
SEAS strives to educate the public about the benefits of sailing and boating, preservation of our maritime heritage and serves as a resource to help support the organizations, clubs, and individuals that fit the parameters of our mission, Boating for Everyone.
SHEBOYGAN ROUNDTABLE FORUM SUMMARY
On Wednesday, September 13, 2017, during the Blind Fleet Racing World Championships in Sheboygan, competitors and other interested parties convened a roundtable discussion forum about various aspects of blind sailing, facilitated by Liz Baylis, executive director of the Women’s International Match Racing Association, and Stacie Straw, who transcribed the proceedings. Special thanks to Liz and Stacie for their efforts in support of blind sailing.
A summary of the comments and ideas follows. This was a brainstorming session on various aspects of blind sailing including how to increase awareness of blind sailing and grow the sport.
Notes from Roundtable at Blind Fleet Racing World Championships
The following is a summary of comments and ideas – no judgments!
1) What do sailors like about having this event at this venue (Sheboygan)?
- a) Pristine fleet of boats
- b) Great race committee
- c) Good communication regarding schedule
- d) Conditions are usually good
- e) Ability to get rigged and on the water quickly
- f) Great volunteers, help with housing
- g) Good bosun support
- h) Venue is consistent — they have hosted events before and have a good sense of the sailors’ needs
- i) Suggestion: Would be nice to have occasional events in Europe because there are so many countries in close proximity, and travel is easier for them
2) Lucy (Hodges – GBR)’s suggestions about a 5-year strategy to increase participation:
- a) Stick with what works, and remember that what works in one country/region won’t necessarily work in others
- b) Have a simple strategy with 3 main events
- c) Each country needs to build social media and press profile in order to build interest
- d) Share success stories with other countries
- e) Pick countries that are easy to travel to and help them build their program — divide and conquer among countries so the burden isn’t falling on any one person
- f) Carry cards/handouts to have handy if someone inquires
3) Outreach: How do we get more sailors in the pipeline? How to build support in general?
- a) Go to universities or local community organizations to ask about whether they know of any blind athletic people who may be interested in learning a new sport
- b) Would be helpful for World Sailing to do more to support efforts. Many teams have no government funding or support from national body and are reliant on their own fundraising just to get to regattas.
- c) Work on more long-term planning – the current situation is short-term and only focused on the coming year. Would be good to identify regatta chairs for each of the next four years so that they can each focus on advancing their specific event
- d) Find local sailing centers that are willing to provide support
- e) Can’t rely on US Sailing for much support if it isn’t Olympic
- f) Blind Sailing International is likely best positioned to provide support
- g) Not everyone has faith in what BSI is currently doing to grow the sport
- h) Lions Club organization is involved with the vision-impaired. One year, they had their worldwide conference in Chicago and they got involved.
- i) NZ has had the most success with retention of formerly sighted sailors who lost their sight. Most people they have brought out as a result of grass roots efforts targeting new sailors don’t come back. Need to know why they don’t return.
- j) Countries have competed in the past, and we need to know why they are no longer participating. Do we know why they aren’t communicating with other countries?
- k) People should blog regularly so that they don’t lose followers — it only takes a couple of minutes to post updates and it ensures there is always fresh content to read
- l) Organizations such as BSI should have an Executive Director who is directly responsible for obtaining sponsorship
- m) Find corporations with corporate social responsibility initiatives that involve working with the vision-impaired
- n) Sports camps for blind youth like the one that Scott and Leann Ford direct are a great venue to expose youth to the sport
- o) BSI needs to establish a regular form of communicating – some sailors know very little about the organization and do not receive newsletters, etc. Not a prominent BSI presence at this year’s event – need more support and sponsorship from them
- p) Scott and Kris volunteered to work on a blog for the US
- q) There is an organization that does youth camps across the US, but also in other countries. Would be good to connect teams from those countries
- r) Don’t rely on the same volunteers all the time or your risk burning them out – many hands make light work!
4) Scheduling of world championship level events — would it be better to do an event every 2 years rather than every year? (e.g., Fleet and match racing would each be every 4 years instead of every 2)
- a) Yes:
- i) Some teams struggle with funding and this schedule would allow them to have a better chance of consistently participating
- ii) Some people believe that an event every 4 years with 25-30 teams would be better than every 2 with low attendance
iii) Doesn’t necessarily have to result in a loss of momentum if regional events (e.g., Oceania, Europe) could be held in interim years
- b) No:
- i) Loss of momentum. Once each discipline is pushed back to every 4 years, people won’t take the sport seriously
- ii) Loss of sponsors. Team GBR is already working on their funding for next year. If there is more than a year between events, you may lose sponsors because you have nothing to deliver to them.
iii) Other sports hold internationally sanctioned events every year. Focus more on building funding and support for countries and teams who don’t currently have it
- iv) Some regions may not have critical mass to hold regional championships, so they would lose out if there was not an event to travel to each year
- a) More divisions for match racing. In 2014 there were both B1 and B2 skippers.
- b) Consider adding a developmental class that would allow for less experienced match racers to have a sighted coach on board
- c) Ask strong, experienced venues to consider holding regional events
- d) Qualifiers for worlds in order to maintain the integrity of the event, and to allow others to build experience
- e) Focus on documenting how teams have been successful (how have Boston teams built practice schedule, how did GBR get sponsorship and matching team gear)
- f) On a similar note – share tips with each other so that we can stop reinventing the wheel. Walt knows how to run clinics and would be happy to pass along information
- a) World Sailing has had discussions about how to include blind sailing in Paralympic world sailing events. Getting back into the Paralympic games would be recognition of the strength of the blind community.
- b) The initial goal and funding is being directed towards getting sailing generally back in Paralympic games, and need to make sure the funding continues once sailing is back in the games because those monies are needed for development. Once sailing is back in the games, all countries will be wealthier. Blind sailing is part of the longer-term strategy
- c) Would be good for there to be a subcommittee that works directly with Betsy Alison.
7) Sounded buoys
- a) Yes
- i) Sounded buoys are awesome. In Boston, they found that brand new sailors figured it out very quickly in terms of going upwind. They are a game changer that allow for rapid progression
- ii) Worked well with 6 teams at US nationals
- iii) Helps blind skipper to position themselves on the course – and leaves tacticians free for tactics
- b) No
- i) No need with two sighted people on board, and the noise at the marks — especially the first weather mark which is crowded — would be a distraction.
- ii) They work well for match racing, and for training, but have tried in fleet racing and didn’t think it worked. Too important to listen to the tactician.
- iii) Sound impairment for the outside boats when there are multiple boats overlapped.
- c) It depends
- i) Very independent opinions – background noise causes distraction for sighted, but no sound takes independence away from the blind sailors.
If you have comments on the above, please send them to BSI Chairman Vicki Sheen: email@example.com
The comments will be collated and added to a followup edition of the BSI newsletter, along with comments already received. Don’t wait — send your comments now.
THE JOURNEY WAS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE DESTINATION
BY BJ BLAHNIK
This phrase was a common thread before, during and even after the 2017 Blind Fleet Racing World Championship. All participants, volunteers and officials came together, which allowed our sport to continue versus the probability of stalling. When I learned the original location needed to cancel, my heart sank because I know the passion I have for Blind Sailing is the same throughout the Blind Sailing Community.
Many people did not believe the regatta could be organized in such a short amount of time, but I believed in the support which Sail Sheboygan provided me which was where the journey began. This journey was not accomplished by just one person, it became a true team effort which included Rich Reichelsdorfer, from Sail Sheboygan, and Brian Todd, from World Sailing.
With this team effort, we were able to create a new concept and rotation which allowed the regatta to only require eight sailboats which were Sonars. It is my understanding this is the fewest number of sailboats ever used for a Fleet Racing regatta and in the end, many teams were complimentary of the fact in Division 1 there were 18 races, Division 2 & 3 were able to get in 17 races each. These races were completed in 6 days with a rotating window of morning and afternoon.
It is my opinion that a blueprint was created for many other Yacht Clubs or Sailing Centers around the world to discover you do not need major fleets of similar boats to host our events. Blind Sailing International now has a map to expand their outreach and begin to bring our Blind Sailing World Championships to so many different locations in the future.
This journey was not able to find its destination were it not for the competitors. Sheboygan has hosted two Match Racing World Championships in the past and now this Fleet Racing World Championship. Having competitors from all over the world gave them a chance to see the caliber of race committee management we offered, it gave all sailors the opportunity to show off their skills at the highest level. A regatta is only as good as the competition offered and with every race being close, it was truly an amazing regatta to watch.
Even though the regatta itself has come to its final destination, the journey is just beginning for all the teams and the sport of Blind Sailing. It is up to the members of the Blind Sailing Community to take what you have learned and take the information discussed to use it and move our sport to the next level. This cannot be done by just one or two people or organizations, we are all a part of Blind Sailing International and it is up to all of us to show the world our unique sport and remind everyone we are not just blind sailors, we are sailors who just happen to be blind — and we define our own destinations.
BJ Blahnik was the race organizer for the 2017 Blind Fleet Racing World Championships, hosted by Sail Sheboygan and SEAS.
GREAT BRITAIN BLIND SAILING REPORT
BY LUCY HODGES
Our GBR team of visually impaired and sighted sailors have returned from the World Blind Sailing Championships in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA with silver medals in the B1 category, gold medals in the B2 category and gold and silver in the B3 categories and the Squadron Trophy for the highest ranked country overall. Another brilliant result for GBR sailing.
Although our thanks has been given personally we send our thanks again especially to BJ Blahnik and his wife for working with the teams in the USA and a key link to World Sailing, Richard Reichelsdorfer for being again truly supportive of Blind Sailing and running some amazing racing. Our thanks also goes to the team at SEAS and Sheboygan Yacht Club.
GBR build up to the Worlds was just under a year, starting back in November 2016, working from the basics up to the finer points that make a strong team. This also included finding new sailors, one of which was Catherine Westbrook, mainsheeter on the B1 boat. Catherine has two glass eyes but three years ago found her love of sailing and does not look back.
Catherine attended her first weekend in the early part of 2017 and showed her true feel for sailing but on top of her feel, she showed her dedication to being selected and the team watched her grow each month. This dedication has in the last few months grown to seeing Catherine take to the water and single-handed sailing a Laser to gain greater understanding and getting set for blind match racing.
GBR Blind Sailing will again this year be encouraging more sailors out on to the water. GBR also built up their sighted sailors base, seeing four new sighted sailors get selected for the team. This is a great boost for the team, and has been special watching them grow into the roles and build new skills.
The team has looked back at the event each day on their website http://www.gbrblindsailing.co.uk but the main highlights for the team were the great racing in a setting that tested all skills. Due to the great condition of the boats providing equal racing, it came down to the team’s skills to sail the boat fast and smooth. It can not be missed; the great close racing in the B1 fleet with the mark rounding where all of the fleet tried to go round together — no team giving in.
We thank all the teams again for memories and stories were made as well as medals won.
Lucy Hodges, MBE, is the Commodore of GBR Blind Sailing.
THE MOST FUN YOU COULD HAVE WITH YOUR PFD ON
BY DUANE FARRAR
Whenever my sighted tactician Denis Bell and I walk down a dock and approach our sailboat to go racing, we have this one particular ritual.
We punch each other in the back.
Ostensibly, this is to ensure each of us is wearing our life jacket before stepping on board. But it’s also our way of signaling to one another, “I’m ready, let’s go! “After 20-plus years of racing together, few words are required. I often say that in many ways Denis and I resemble an old, married couple. In fact, our friendship pre-dates both of our marriages and children.
The end products of this two-decades-long connection are that we have complete faith and trust in each other whenever we climb aboard a sailboat together, no matter what the particular boat, conditions or circumstances may be. For my part, even if I have pre-racing butterflies each day, which I almost always have in “big” regattas, They disappear immediately as soon as I am on a boat with Denis. I am instantly relaxed and ready to go have fun!
Denis, on the other hand, may be just a tad more stressed given his responsibilities as tactician, but he knows he can count on me to be ready and respond immediately to whatever sudden commands he throws at me in any situation. This is born out of our years of racing centerboard dinghies on Friday evenings together against sighted sailors in a fleet of between 10 and 25 boats. Believe me, there have been some pretty crazy commands tossed my way over the years! Denis will tell you he loves the challenge of successfully and safely guiding blind sailors around the race course and he is having as much fun as we are.
When Amy Bower, our blind mainsail trimmer, joined the team in 2014, we adopted the Wind Whisperer name. But, one could say the Wind Whisperers were truly born when Amy and I first met and became friends when we both belonged to a sight-loss support group in 1990. Six years later, Amy introduced me to sailing and two weeks after that I was helming a J22 in my first blind sailing regatta in Boston, thanks to Arthur O’Neill and the SailBlind program. The following spring, at another blind sailing regatta in Newport, the sighted crew on my team was a 24-year-old former college racer named, wait for it, … Denis Bell.
For many years, I begged Amy to join the sailing team. In 2014, she finally agreed, probably figuring it was the best way to shut me up! From our years of friendship, I knew she was an athlete with a competitive spirit who had succeeded in a sighted and male-dominated field. I knew she was tough and could easily handle the rigors of sailboat racing, but also possessed a great sense of humor. And, as the eldest member of the team, she can easily hold her own with us boys and keep us in line. And she’s not afraid to use colorful language to do it!
At age 30, our youngest team member Andrew Alletag perhaps needs the most keeping in line. He’s brash, confident and pulls no punches in telling you what he thinks. He delights in tormenting me with Katie Perry and other music that I can’t stand playing on his smart phone. I first met Andrew when he was an 18-year-old Dock Staff member at Boston’s Community Boating (CBI). Today he is CBI’s Operations Director. We began racing together in 2016 and he’s an excellent addition to the team!
We have assembled a team that is built upon long years of friendship, trust and confidence in each other’s abilities. The camaraderie that exists between us is very special. If one of us falters, the others are there to pick them up. And, while sailboat racing can be a serious business, most of all we are having an incredible amount of fun!
Duane Farrar, helmsman of Team Wind Whisperers, won his first Gold medal in the B1 division at the 2015 Blind Fleet Racing World Championships in Chicago. He repeated the performance – a Gold medal in the B1 division – in this year’s 2017 Blind Fleet Racing World Championship in Sheboygan, WI.
Watch for a followup email with more roundtable comments, more race results from 2017 and more ways to help with the BSI website.