Beginner's guide to Para Worlds

The Para World Championship in Sheboygan is a few days away. This is the highest level of competitive sailing available in the world for disabled sailors, and the first time it's ever been held on a Great Lake.  

There are lots of reasons to come down to the lakefront during the regatta - racing starts Tuesday, Sept. 18 and concludes Saturday, Sept. 22 - and check out the action. But if you're not sure what we're talking about when we bring up Para Worlds or fleet racing, here's a beginner's guide to make it easier: 

  • What is para world sailing?

The Para World Sailing Championship is an annual World Championship multi-class sailing regatta organized by World Sailing for disabled sailors.Sailing is one of the few sports in which able-bodied sailors and para sailors can participate on equal terms and also one of the only sports in which athletes of any disability compete together. Sailing is a versatile sport that can accommodate many types of disability. Almost any boat can be sailed by people with disabilities. 

  • What is fleet racing?

Fleet racing is the most common form of competitive sailing that involves boats racing around a course. Fleet racing can be either one-design or handicap. One design racing means that boats racing against each other are all the same - the same design, the same sail area etc. The 2018 Para World Championship is a one-design race. Besides fleet racing, the other types are match racing and team racing.  

  • What should I look for when I watch a race?

Racing occurs around or between buoys. Using only wind power, each racer tries to sail faster around a racecourse and has separate starting and finishing lines. The courses are set so that the boats must sail on different angles relative to the wind direction: against the wind (upwind), with the wind (downwind) and on a reach (across the wind).

Sailboats can’t sail straight into the wind, so they need to take a zig-zag course when they sail against the wind. Wind varies in strength and direction, and the strength and direction of the lake current also influence the tactics of the racers.

  • How can I watch the Para World Championship?

Racing will be visible from all the public beach areas in Sheboygan: North Beach, North Pier and South Pier.

  • Who’s in charge of fleet racing?

The Para World Championship is overseen by World Sailing, based in London, and hosted by Sail Sheboygan and the Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS).

  • Who’s racing?

There will be more than 100 sailors from 39 nations around the world at the 2018 Para World Championship. Teams will include men and women sailors as well as coaches. Three types of boats will race on three separate courses in Lake Michigan: 2.4m Norlin OD, Hansa 303 and RS Venture. We'll have some of the most accomplished sailors in the world at our doorstep for this event, including: 

Heiko Kroger of Germany, who won Paralympic gold in 2000 and silver in 2012

Violeta Reino of Spain, an English teacher and defending champion

Jordan Milroy, the first Samoan to compete in the Para Worlds

Rick Doerr, an American who suffered a spinal cord injury in 1992 and went on to win silver in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

  • Why should I go and watch?

The Para World Championship is the most prestigious adaptive sailing event that’s ever been held on the Great Lakes and is the highest level of competition available to disabled sailors. The International Paralympic Committee is considering reinstating sailing into the Paralympics, and the 2018 world championship in Sheboygan is one of the events they’ll use to make a decision. As we share our lakefront with the world’s best disabled sailors, the Para World Championship is a great way to get to know the sport a little more and understand why we say boating is for everyone.