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Commentary on 2014 Blind Match Racing Worlds from Sheboygan

From Liz Baylis, ISAF Match Racing Committee Chairman:

I had the pleasure last week of watching the IFDS Blind Match Racing World Championship in Sheboygan, Wisconsin (Scuttlebutt 4170). My first reaction upon meeting the sailors and watching them compete was “Wow!”

These are all truly gifted athletes with a passion for their sport. In this event they competed without a sighted person onboard while racing – imagine buoy racing in close quarters in the pitch black with sloppy 4-foot seas and light winds. Could you do it? I was in awe.

Leading up to the event I had read with fascination about previous blind match racing events and researched the Homerus Autonomous Sailing System which uses three acoustic buoys, each with a unique sound signal, defining the course while the racing boats had their own sound signal that changes when the boat is on port or starboard tack. But this still did not prepare me for what I would witness.

I was on the water providing live commentary to an audience on shore that included sighted and blind sailors and non-sailors. And I can’t tell you how many times I just kept saying “Wow, these athletes are awesome. They are sailing really well and they are match racing, being aggressive, and doing it with great enthusiasm. I’m impressed.”

I am looking forward to seeing this sport grow and I encourage all of you to find an opportunity to witness and support these fine athletes. I think you’ll be impressed as well.

P.S. There was one day with no racing due to 30-40 knot winds, so what did the athletes do? They went bowling! Good fun was had by all.

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