Here is a write up by Erwin Jansen who is leading the AS1 effort for the paralympics.
Last year’s decision that sailing was not to be part of the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo came as a huge disappointment for the sport worldwide. Sailing offers disabled people unique opportunities to participate in sport with many varied disabilities competing on equal terms. The main reason stated was that only sports widely and regularly practiced in a large enough number of countries will be considered for inclusion in the Paralympic Games.
So it is time for a change, and we at WindRider believe we can make a very positive contribution to the efforts of growing the disabled sailing sport as a whole, and bringing back sailing to future Paralympic Games in particular. World Sailing invited WindRider to take part in an equipment evaluation in early May in Italy and a second one early June in The Netherlands.
Looking at the main criteria set out by World Sailing, which are believed to result in a rapid increase in competitive disabled sailing participation, and done so in more countries and regions than ever before, we have taken the original WindRider philosophy of ‘Sailing Simplified’ a step further, and designed new adaptive versions of the original WindRider 17 Trimaran.
This new WindRider AS (up to four people for recreational purposes), and the upgraded race versions AS1 (one-person) and AS2 (two-person) - where AS stands for Adaptive Sailing - combine the thrill, attractiveness and performance of sailing a fast open multihull with the accessibility and safety of current Paralympic boats.
- The WindRider AS’s durability and extremely low maintenance requirements will result in a much lower cost over the long run.
- Its draft of less than 50 cm allows for racing very close to shore, making it more exciting for spectators to follow.
- It also opens up many new urban sailing areas, which cannot be used by boats with keels.
- Launching can be done from nearly any ramp or beach, reducing the burden on event organizers.
There are already over 1.500 original WindRiders 17’s in use around the world. Any existing WindRider 17 build from 2007 onwards can easily be upgraded at reasonable cost to become an AS, AS1 or AS2 version. Such older upgraded boats fitted with new sails will be just as competitive as a brand new boat. This allows potential WindRider Paralympians to use existing WindRider 17’s from a Sailability or rental fleet, or acquire an affordable second-hand WindRider 17, and by adding the ‘AS’ Upgrade Kit can compete under WindRider AS class rules.
What now follows is a report from WindRider’s European dealer who represented WindRider during both evaluation events. In total there were 3 monohulls present, being the Hansa 303, Hansa Liberty and RS Venture, and 2 multihulls, being the Weta trimaran and WindRider AS1 / AS2 trimaran.
The first test location was Malcesine, Italy. It is located on the beautiful Lake Garda. Both test days were generally quiet with less than 5 knots of wind, but with some more wind for brief periods in the afternoon (up to 10 knots). There were a number of sailors with varying types of disabilities eager to try out the boats and share their experiences.
The little Hansa boats showed their popularity in disabled sailing, as most test sailors were familiar with them already. Once they are in the water and docked, they are easy to board and to sail. They also offer a standard solution for most types of disabilities.
The two-person RS Venture was left on shore and had to be launched using the slipway. The boat shown was fitted with two seats next to one another and hand-steering. Overall the layout was tidy and the boat looked well designed. A drawback was the fact that there were no solutions presented for sailors with limited arm or hand function, and launching the boat had to be done with the sailors inside. This resulted in needing at least 4 strong people to help launch and retrieve the boat.
The Weta which similarly to the WindRider was presented as both a one-person and two-person boat had the same launch problem as the RS Venture. And although the Venture can also be docked and then boarded using a crane, with a trimaran this becomes very difficult due to its width. Because the Weta is fitted with a rudder and daggerboard that go fairly deep and the boat is very light and quite fragile, the launch and retrieval had to be done carefully and with a number of assistants. The Weta had very limited adaptive options installed. It was the standard boat designed to be sailed from the trampoline, but fitted with a seat in the center hull and two rods to allow steering by hand while facing forward. In effect it couldn’t be sailed by one disabled person to its full ability due to the lack of cleats. Most worrying was the concern that the Weta could capsize with the crew in the center cockpit. For a multihull which subsequently can turn all the way upside down this is very dangerous for a crew with limited swimming abilities or strapped inside a seat. Weta only showed the boats with a reduced size mainsail, and with the very light winds during the first trial it was not possible to truly test this though. In any case, as a two-person boat, due to the small space inside the main hull, it would mean one crew would be sitting on the trampoline and will act as ballast, reducing the risk of a capsize. This does significantly reduce the types of disabilities that are able to sail this boat though.
The WindRider was boarded while on the slipway. A single assistant could help the sailor(s) in boarding the boat and push the boat of. Due to the polyethylene hull material and its unique shape, there was no risk in damaging the rudder and a daggerboard is not present. Coming back in was just a matter of sliding the boat onto the slipway without any assistance. The WindRider AS which was presented is fully designed for adaptive sailing, with both hand steering and foot steering from either crew position. The front cockpit furthermore sports an ergonomic cleat console where all sheets, trim- and control lines come together. The WindRider saw sailors with the largest variety of types of disabilities take it out for a spin, either solo or with two. The position inside the hull, similar to the Hansa boats, in stead of sitting on top as with the RS Venture and Weta, gave the sailors a safe feeling. An automatic mast flotation device was hoisted in the mast to prevent the boat going upside down in the very unlikely event of a capsize, allowing the crew to always stay above the waterline even when strapped inside their seats.
On the water all boats performed as they were to be expected given the low to moderate wind conditions, with the multihulls obviously faster and more exciting to look at then the slower monohulls.
The second test location was in Medemblik, The Netherlands. It is located on Western Europe’s largest lake; the IJsselmeer, famous for its difficult choppy water. The first day offered moderate winds ranging from 10 to 15 knots, and on the second day the wind increased gradually to reach 20 knots with gusts up to 25 knots in the afternoon.
Apart from evaluating the boats, the second trial also allowed World Sailing to try out a new box course format, by match racing two identical boats in an upwind/downwind slalom with an added reach. This proved quite successful in terms of sailors’ expectations, tactical skill required and from a spectator’s point of view. It was certainly much better geared towards the high performance trimarans taking part, compared to the standard Olympic triangle course.
The RS team decided not to attend this second trial, so the boats which could be tested were the Hansa 303, Hansa Liberty, the Weta trimaran and the WindRider AS1 / AS2 trimaran.
The Hansa boats performed as expected. Most test sailors present were at the venue to compete in the Hansa World Championships that were to start a few days later, so they were already more than familiar with these boats. Also during the second day in which the boats and sailors would experience quite strong wind and big choppy waves, the little Hansa boats sailed the course without issues, partly due to the ease of which the mainsail and jib could be reduced in size. From a spectator’s point of view, the lack of boat speed on the water was partly made up by the variety of colorful sails.
The conditions during this second trial should have been perfect for the Weta to proof their suitability for disabled sailing. Unfortunately that was not to be the case. The two Wetas presented were not equipped with any adaptive options, and as such could not be sailed by any of the disabled test sailors present. On the first day the Weta owner and the local dealer each took a boat out, sailing them from the trampoline. On the second day they gave a great demonstration on the water by having two professional 49’er sailors race the Wetas around the buoys of the test course. Overall Weta has proven to be quite an exciting boat for abled sailors, but unfortunately have not shown any suitability whatsoever towards using the boat for disabled sailing and exacerbated the fear it could be dangerous in moderate or strong wind conditions when sailed from the center hull only.
Even though the number of test sailors present during the trials was limited, the WindRider managed to attract most of them, and in two days nine different sailors –again with a wide variety of different types of disabilities- had the chance to take out the boats, and race the course. After the first trials in Italy the WindRider was slightly adapted to reduce sheet load and to solve some annoyance with unfurling the reacher and jib. It further sported an improved hand steering solution that allowed for a quick change of steering position between the front and aft cockpit. The feedback during the second trial was 100% positive. Several of the experienced Hansa test sailors were in awe with the stability, speed and handling and praised the ergonomic layout of the sheet plan. Even during the second afternoon with quite harsh conditions the WindRiders proved to be perfect for disabled sailing. Three members of the Sailability Club from Western Australia tried the WindRider and afterwards fantasized about where to dump the boats they brought with them in a shipping container, and filling it up with WindRiders to take back to Perth in stead.
Summing it up, World sailing’s initiative to introduce new sailing classes and courses with the aim to rapidly grow the appeal and participation in disabled sailing is very positive. World Sailing will have some tough choices to make in the coming months, both in regards to which boats will keep a Paralympic status and which new boats will join or replace these. Looking at a variety of factors, such as overall cost and durability, the usability and safety for disabled sailors, attractiveness to abled sailors, level of skill required, performance, attractiveness for spectators, current fleet size, versatility for other non-regatta purposes, such as rentals or instruction, and certainly not forgetting how easy or expensive it is to transport and launch the boats for events, we can compare the different boats and identify their strong and weak points. At WindRider we may be biased towards the WindRider, but looking at the overview below, it becomes quite clear how the WindRider stands head and shoulders above its competitors, hopefully making the decision for World Sailing a lot easier.
Regardless of World Sailing’s decision and the future of Paralympic sailing after 2016, WindRider intends to take the new line up of the AS and AS1 / AS2 into production in the coming months and will continue its efforts to grow disabled sailing around the world.