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.

sailing at night Challenged America Transpac

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

Last 2013 Martin 16 Regatta of 2013

All eight of Challenged America’s Martin 16 s were out sailing on San Diego Bay Saturday, enjoying the beautiful weather.  Several competed in the last races of the 2013 Loch and Clare Crane Regatta Series and some just day-sailed.  Sue Taetzsch and companion sailor Marshall finished third; Eric Berkey and John were second and future Paralympian Ryan Porteous and Kristy led the fleet with 3 bullets for first place. 


There seems to always be controversy when it comes to people with disabilities and sailing safety.  The “What happens if …?” and “How can they do it?” doubters abound, and our answer is always:  “Prepare, Prevent and Practice, Practice, Practice!”, according to Challenged America co-founder and the charity’s volunteer president  Urban Miyares, a sailor with more than five-decades of sailing experience. 

Sailors at the San Diego-based Challenged America Program come from around the nation and the world; of all ages, they have both hidden and obvious medical conditions.   Sailing on San Diego’s Big Bay, as well as offshore, , these sailors with disabilities, along with their loved ones, as well as professional sailing instructors, therapists and rehabilitation specialists, participate in the 36-year-old,  year-round, no-cost, volunteer-driven, therapeutic adaptive sailing program.   

Continue reading

2014 Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race

Sydne-Hobart yacht race2014 Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race:  CREW CANDIDATES WANTED!

Challenged America is joining forces with a new disabled veterans organization in Australia to assemble crew candidates consisting of experienced offshore racing sailors who are also (severely) disabled veterans to race a 50+ foot offshore racer (with a crew of 15) in the 2014 Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race
Interested?  Do you qualify?

Commitment to train in Australia required; fundraising now going on.

The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race (sometimes referred to as the Bluewater Classic in the Australian media) is an annual event hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. The race distance is approximately 630 nautical miles (1,170 km). The race is run in co-operation with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, and is widely considered to be one of the most difficult yacht races in the world.