Sailing was first introduced to the Paralympic Games in 1996 as a demonstration sport, and in 2000 US athletes competed for medals at the Paralympic Games in Sydney.
Three boats are typically raced in the Paralympic Games: the 2.4mR, a single-person keelboat, the SKUD-18, a two-person keelboat and the Sonar, a three-person keelboat. The high performance SKUD-18 makes its Paralympic debut in 2008 in the coastal city of Qingdao, China.
According to the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS), a SKUD-18 team must include one female and one person deemed a Functional Classification System (FCS) "1," or severely disabled, like a quadriplegic. Sailors are seated on the centerline for Paralympic events, but the boat can be sailed with or without either of the seats and configured to suit different sailors’ needs.
Because of its design and control, the 2.4mR was selected for single-person races. The boat's ease of use allows for a level playing field, making tactical knowledge the dominant factor in competition.
The Sonar uses a versatile crew-friendly design that is accommodating to athletes with physical disabilities. It is used by sailors of all experience and ability levels, from the novice to international competitors.
Paralympic sailing competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation/limb loss, blindness/visual impairment, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.