Team NZ back Paralympic yachting return

By Joshua McKenzie-Brown

With Auckland being the #CityofSails and New Zealand dominating the sport in recent times, Attitude decided to get the NZ take on the movement to restore yachting to the LA Paralympics 2028.

With Auckland being the #CityofSails and New Zealand dominating the sport in recent times, Attitude decided to get the NZ take on the movement to restore yachting to the LA Paralympics 2028.

There’s no para America’s Cup. There’s no para Sail GP and there’s no sailing at the Paralympics in 2024 for sailors with disabilities. 

#Backthebid is a global media campaign that complements World Sailing’s official bid to bring adaptive yachting back to the Paralympics in LA 2028. There’s no shortage of high profile backers.

Emirates Team New Zealand have thrown their support behind the movement from the beginning, saying that it is important that all athletes have the ability to compete at the top level of their chosen sport. As for Para America’s Cup, Team NZ are optimistic.

Sailing at the top level has become an incredibly dynamic, fast and technological sport as we see with the boats racing and flying around now, but as we see time and time again with Paralympians and so many people with challenges, nothing is impossible. So it might not be outside the realms of possibility.” 

Yachting NZ are also onboard.

There is no doubt that yachting should be reinstated to the Paralympics. As a sport, sailing is still the most inclusive sport on the Olympic slate and caters for a greater range of abilities than any other Olympic sport.”

According to Tim Dempsey, Director of Sailability Auckland and a Paralympic Sailor himself, the World Sailing bid is crucial. 

Tim says Having a pinnacle event like the Paralympics in sailing attracts many more people to the sport.  It also attracts a lot more funding and resources which in turn gets more people into the sport. Not everyone gets to the Paralympics but it's a goal that young people, starting out, aspire to.  For those without disabilities sailing is in the Olympics, there is the America's Cup and now Sail GP, so why should people with disabilities not also have at least one pinnacle event.

I would like to see a massive Paradigm Shift and have the SKUD 18 sailing in the Olympics with an able bodied crew on trapeze and a helm with a high level disability and an equal gender split. I think this is too big a shift for people to get their heads around now, but it's a goal worth pursuing in the future after Sailing is back in the Paralympics.”

Full disclosure - I love being on the water and my connection to this story runs deep. As a younger man I was a World Champion Adaptive Sailor, competing around the globe. I would rig my boat in the mornings side by side with guys who would go on to be Team New Zealand skippers and crew. Adaptive sailing events on the international circuit are often integrated into mainstream regattas, leading the way when it comes to para sport inclusion. 

Adaptive sailing is a truly inclusive sport. Competitors of all ages and genders can compete on the same level. Sailors sit inside the boat, without the need to hike out over the side. All controls are in front and a heavy keel stabilises the boat, reducing the likelihood of capsize.Yachts used at past Paralympics were the single person 2.4m, the two person SKUD18 and the three person Sonar. 

World Sailing submitted their bid in July this year to the International Paralympic Committee for inclusion in LA 2028. They believe all of the criteria have been met, so will we once again see sailors with disabilities competing in this pinnacle sporting event? The jury’s still out but the pressure is building. 


          Key Para Sailing statistics

  • 750 para sailors are registered with World Sailing
  • 15% of registered para sailors are under the age of 30
  • 20% of registered para sailors are female