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Blind Match Racing World Championship - Day 3

by Lisa Hartman on 24 Sep 2016 21-25 September 2016

After several days waiting for the wind to pick up and the fog to clear out, five teams of blind sailors from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Israel were finally able to commence the Blind Match Racing World Championship Friday.

The British team, with skipper Vicki Sheen at the helm, emerged as the early leader after winning all of their matches.

"I think the conditions were absolutely lovely," she said. "The wind strength was perfect. There was a little bit of wave action and disturbed water, but it was really, really lovely sailing."

The dominant team, which includes Lucy Hodges and Liam Cattermole, only practiced together in the boat for three days before Friday's contest, and Vicki credited the Blind Sailing UK program, which they all are part of, for their seamless teamwork.

She also noted the remarkable performance of her opponents. "The teams have all come on amazingly since the last world championships two years ago," she said. "There is less variation between teams, everyone's on the pace. The training all the teams are doing and the clinic last week have really paid off."

Principal Race Officer Rich Reichelsdorfer echoed that thought. "What I was really excited about was how well the Canadians and the two U.S. teams have improved from the Worlds two years ago," he said. "It's really encouraging to see them sailing so well. The scores don't show it but they're doing really, really well." USA 2, skippered by Mark Bos, finished the day without any wins but with more than their share of goodwill.

"We had a very rough start but in the last race we were able to reverse things and we all came in with smiles on our faces," he said. "We had a steep learning curve today."

That might be partly because the blind teams didn't get any practice time, thanks to unfavorable weather Monday and Tuesday, so today's race was effectively their practice run.

Using today's positive ending as a springboard, Mark said he's confident that tomorrow will be a different story.

"I'll try to hold the line a little bit better," he said. "We've learned how to work together as a team." After spending so many days on standby because of bad weather, sailors wore out midway through the second match of their second round robin.

"Sitting around for an eight-hour day, watching fog – it's tiring," Rich said. Saturday's racing will begin with the second flight of Round Robin 2. After so many days of windless, foggy inaction, Friday's near-perfect weather was the big story of the day.

"Conditions were just about perfect," Rich said. "I have not seen it blow consistently out of the north ever. It stayed at 10-15 knots all day."

The steady wind from the north made some changes necessary, however. The blind races were moved to the South Pier area, where the women were originally slated to race and the women were relocated about a half-mile farther out. The result was a stunning view of both races from the shore.

"There would have been too much bounce back from the waves up at North Pier," Rich said. The day, which ended with a community-wide brat fry to raise money for the adaptive sailing program at SEAS (Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan), raised everyone's hopes for another successful race day Saturday.

"I'm a little bit cautious," Rich said. "The forecast is calling for easterly winds at 10 knots, and easterly winds tend to die."

For information on the day's results or to follow the action, follow @SeaSheboygan on Twitter or www.seasheboygan.org.

Wind up and Team GBR sail strong (from Lucy Hodges)

After two days of racing being cancelled, all teams were pleased to get out on the water and start racing.

The course was set to the Starboard side of the harbour giving competitors some relief from the northerly 10-12 knots of breeze which was coursing some confusing waves.

With five country's from around the world taking part putting together their training in their home country and the clinic held by Dave Perry it was great to see all boats sailing well around the course and gaining penalties on each other.

GBR went into the competition after training hard at weekends together at UKSA and Ark Sailing with sighted support from Ian Shirra. GBR lead in all their flights in the first round robbin of the completion battering with each country in the pre-start in hope to gain a penalty.

Blind Match Racing is all done by using acoustic sounds and with the waves moving up and down all teams had to work hard to focus on the marks. Lucy from team GBR said "it was great to get out on the water and start racing the first race always puts the nerves at ease. The conditions were good steady breeze but with the waves coming in all directions and all sizes we had to work hard on timing into the line along with your approach to the marks as a team to ensure we were not caught out and bounced the wrong side of the mark. It was great to see the improvements made by all countries over the last two years and with some great opportunities to talk about match racing and sailing in general, it will give everyone lots of great ideas to take away with them to practice for future events.

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