Since World Sailing launched its campaign to reinstate sailing into the Paralympic Games for LA28, the overriding message has been that sailing is a sport for all and is life-changing.
Sailing – present at every Paralympic Games since Atlanta 1996 to Rio 2016 – is also a global family, and this is why the #BacktheBid campaign to reinstate sailing into the Paralympic Games, has been met with universal support from the international sailing community.
Bouwe Bekking, round the world sailing legend, eight-time competitor in The Ocean Race, and multiple world champion from The Netherlands, said, “Sailing is a sport for everyone and is very social. In the last five years there has been a 30% increase in the number of participants in international Para Sailing events, it is clear that it is super popular. So, give Para Sailors another chance to get to the pinnacle of our sport: the Paralympic Games!”
“All together we must support the Para sport movement in sailing and bring this beautiful sport back to the highest possible level, at the Paralympic Games! The athletes, the technicians, the federations and all the young Para Sailors who have the dream of the Paralympic Games deserve it!!” – Francesca Clapcich, two-time Olympian, World Champion, Round the World Sailor
Xu Lijia, Laser Radial gold medallist at London 2012 Olympics, who was born with a hearing impairment, explained the role sailing had in her life.
She said, “Sailing gave me a goal to strive for, and it was the Olympics that made me realise the value of my life. Therefore, I firmly believe that sailing at the Paralympic Games will help a large number of people with disabilities around the world to find unlimited freedom and fun.”
The importance of visible role models was highlighted by Max Sirena, Team Director and Skipper of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, Italian Challenger for the 37th America’s Cup.
He said, “Reintegrating sailing at the Paralympic Games, in my opinion, is a duty, both towards those who have contributed to writing important pages of this sport, and to the thousands of disabled girls and boys from all over the world who, seeing the flag of their country waving on the podium think: I can do it too.”
“Para Sailing offers people across the entire classification spectrum the opportunity to compete at the highest levels. It is a sport where gender can be made irrelevant through equipment selection, where men and women can compete on a level playing field. Para Sailing can and does enable disabled people to live fuller lives on and off the water.” – Jo Aleh, Olympic Gold and Silver Medallist, Olympic Coach, Chair of World Sailing Athletes Commission
Quentin Delapierre, an experienced Olympic and offshore sailor, and current driver of the France SailGP team, said, “For me the Olympic Games were really a dream, I wanted to get a medal. This goal really guided me in all my training before the games, to hurt myself, to go all the way and I learned a lot from it. The Paralympic Games must rediscover or re-trust their values and reintegrate sailing.”
The Switzerland SailGP Team has proudly supported the #BacktheBid message throughout Season 3, and Sebastien Schneiter, two-time Olympian and Driver of the team, lent his support to the campaign.
He said, “Para Sailing is one of the most inclusive and diverse sports there is, and it offers so much to so many people. Having a pathway from grassroots through to the very top is one of the best ways to continue to grow and develop it. It’s so important to have sailing represented at the Paralympic Games.”
A decision on whether sailing will return in Los Angeles is expected by the end of January 2023, and World Sailing CEO David Graham has already reaffirmed support for the sport even if the application is unsuccessful.
In the meantime, with the support of international sailors across all disciplines, sailing has come together to champion #BacktheBid and shown that regardless of the outcome, the sport has a bright future.