Sailing At Night, A Blind Sailor Perspective

By Urban Miyares, Co-Founder, Challenged America Program

There is definitely a difference between having a disability and being handicapped. Sailing at night is but one example. For the sighted, nighttime brings horror and uncertainty, a sudden realization of being handicapped. For me, with more than 40,000 nautical miles of sailing under my keel, half done after I went total blind more than three decades ago, nighttime sailing is sailing as usual, but with a disability.

Those who have sailed with me continually ask me, or whisper to others, “How does he do it? He knows where everything is, he trims sails, steers better than most, even works fore deck, and he can call WIND pugs, and shifts, and tell when the boat is not going right or has kelp on the keel.”

Having sight can often be a terrible thing to have when sailing. Those with sight rely, almost entirely, on what they see visually, whether it is the telltales on the sail, a ripple in the water, what their, instruments and electronics reveal, etc. In addition, when nightfall arrives, many become hesitant sailors, focusing on their instrumentation, which is awful dangerous if your other senses are not in-tune to the environment and your vessel. In most instances, offshore and overnight races are won at night, as the more handicapped your crew becomes with nightfall, the slower your sailboat will go.

Good sailors need to be able to train their other senses so they are confident in what all their senses tell them, day or night, regardless of what they may or may not see.
A number of sailing programs, both learn-to-sail and those for professional sailors have done exercises on sailing blind by blindfolding crew members to force them to pay attention to their other senses. Although this might be a great exercise in sensitivity or awareness, it really accomplishes little as, being blindfolded, does not change the mind’s problem-solving capabilities as a sighted person. Once you take the blindfold off, you are sighted again and back to the sighted world. Additional training and practice is needed to hone the abilities of the other senses to support one’s sighted impressions, and be available when sight is minimized or lost. Continue reading


Winner of the prestigious MYDA award (Millenium Yacht Design Award) in the division “The boat on a human scale”, 2015 Alessandro Comuzzi’s R-30 bridges the gap between able bodied and disabled sailors by designing a sailboat conceived from the beginning to accommodate disabled sailors

R_30 is a 30ft innovative and slick boat designed both for racing and comfortable enough for fast cruising

To accommodate wheelchair bound sailors, the wheel has no spoke allowing the dis abled sailor to sit in the middle as would any able bodied driver.

I know, you are going to ask:  How about when the boat heels?  The wheelchair sits on a self stabilizing platform connected to a gyroscope on the mast that corrects the incline of the platform to compensate for the heel and keep the dis able bodied sailor in a comfortable position

While Comuzzi’s approach is interesting, he assumes that only the driver position needs adaptive accommodations.  The deck shows a configuration where the driver can handle both the wheel and sheets, which is common on a lot of adaptive dinghies but somewhat unlikely on a 30ft or bigger boat.  He also assumes that the crew if there is crew will be able bodies, not dis abled, as such, no adaptive accommodations have been made for a dis abled crew.

We need to stop thinking about adaptive boat design like we think about adaptive car driving and start thinking about adaptive sailing in terms of crew rather than single individuals

Comuzzi’s approach shows promises but still a lot has to be done to make the R_30 a truly adaptive boat allowing dis abled crews to sail together and compete in crewed races.

What are your thoughts

Rio Olympics: Health Concerns for Disabled Sailors?

Rio Olympics: Health Concerns for Disabled Sailors? Should athletes be concerned

Commentary: Concern of Athletes at 2016 Rio Olympics-Paralympics.

By Urban Miyares, Co-Founder, Challenged America Program

For athletes there is no question being invited to compete and represent their countries at the Olympics/Paralympics is not only an honor and privilege, but also a testimony to their hard work to achieve excellence. However, in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics & Paralympics, I have concern about the health and well-being of the athletes with the reports of pollution and contamination of the waters sailors will be competing in.

Having not read any reports, on the medical side, of health dangers for competing in Rio waters, it has prompted me to write about this concern in hope those in the medical profession will make comment, and to bring public awareness to this matter.

Many people with and without disabilities have compromised immune systems, often triggered by injury, disease, medical procedures and medications. Most are aware of their restrictions and need to avoid contact with or consumption of many types of foods and liquids, as well as other contaminates that are in water, soil and even the air. Others, including athletes, may not know of their restrictions or even realize they have a compromised immune system until a health crisis arises.

As a person with a disability and having a compromised immune system, if I were fortunate to be considered a member of the U.S. Olympics/Paralympics Team in sailing, as an example, I would have to decline my Team position due to medical concern.

Such damage to a person’s health, with a compromised immune system, can create an immediate medical emergency, with devastating effect, and also initiate or trigger a medical condition that may not be detected until month or even years later.

It is with this that I hope the U.S. Olympic Team and that of the other countries sending athletes to Rio publicly recognize this problem, and provide a medical assurance that competing (in the sailing venues) is safe during the games and will not affect their medical condition afterwards.

Let me know your thoughts and opinion.