London 2012 was the most successful Games for the GB sailors since their sport first made its full debut at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

In the familiar setting of Weymouth and Portland where the athletes focussed their training ahead of the Games, GB claimed two Paralympic medals on home water. 

Helena Lucas, the only female in her class, claimed GB’s first sailing Paralympic medal as a full programme sport as she took gold in the 2.4mR, and Niki Birrell and Alexandra Rickham also took to the podium as they won bronze for ParalympicsGB in the SKUD 18. 

In the highly competitive Sonar class, Hannah Stodel, John Robertson and Stephen Thomas narrowly missed out on a medal after a four point penalty imposed due to a technical issue off the water left them three points from the bronze medal.

GB has continued to show its strength in international competition in the Rio cycle, with the experience of GB athletes continuing to make an impact.

Recent highlights include gold for the Sonar for Stephen Thomas, John Robertson and Hannah Stodel at the Para-Sailing 2015 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, while the SKUD 18 made their mark to take silver. Elsewhere, Helena Lucas secured 4th place in a competitive field in the 2.4mR.

Helena Lucas

  • First year at a Paralympic Games:
  • Atlanta 1996 (demonstration class for Sonar only)
    Sydney 2000 (Sonar and 2.4mR)
    Beijing 2008 (SKUD 18 added to the Paralympic programme)
  • Brief history:
  • Sailing for disabled people became increasingly popular during the 1980s and in 1988 the International Handicap Sailing Committee was formed. In 1991, the International Sailing Federation recognised the IHSC and the organisation was re-named the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing, which remains the international organisation today.
    In March 2015, the IPC decided that Sailing would not be included on the programme for Tokyo 2020 – a decision which is currently under appeal by the International Sailing Federation.
  • Eligible impairment groups:
  • All physical impairment groups and athletes with a visual impairment
  • London medal table:
  • 1 = Great Britain, Netherlands (one gold, one bronze)
    3 - Australia (one gold)
  • GB medals in London:
  • Helena Lucas, gold, 2.4mR
    Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell, bronze, SKUD 18
  • Did you know:
  • Sonar crew Stephen Thomas is also a Winter Paralympian, having competed for ParalympicsGB in the sledge hockey event at Torino 2006
  • Rio 2016 venue:
  • Marina da Glória (Copacabana Zone)


There are three medal events at the Games. These are the 2.4mR, SKUD 18 and Sonar classes, featuring one, two and three sailors per boat respectively. With the exception of the SKUD, which must have at least one female on board, crews are non-gender specific.

Each event consists of a series of up to 11 races – weather permitting.

Sailors accumulate points according to their positions after each race, with one point for first, two for second and so on. At the end of racing, all the points except the worst score from each team are added together. The winner is the sailor or team with the lowest

points total at the end of the races (unlike the Olympic Games, where there is a one-off final).

Penalties are given for rule infringements, with the offending boats having to perform penalty turns before continuing around the course marked out by buoys.

In Sailing at the Paralympic Games, modifications are made to the equipment in order to suit the athlete's functional ability. Some of the modifications often seen in Paralympic Sailing are adapted seats and adapted tillers for steering.


The classification system is based on four factors – stability, hand function, mobility and vision. Points are awarded to each athlete from 1 to 7, with lower points awarded for the lowest levels of functionality.

Single-Person Keelboat (2.4mR)
The sailor must fulfil the criteria of minimal impairment.

Two-Person Keelboat (SKUD 18)
At least one of the crew shall be female.
One sailor shall be classified as TPA (Two-Person format Classification A), and the other sailor shall be classified as TPB (Two Person System Classification B), which is defined as having at least minimal impairment.

Three-Person Keelboat (Sonar)
Points are given from 1 (maximum impairment) to 7 (minimum impairment) for the individual sailor. The total crew is allowed a maximum of 14 points. No Sailing advantage is given to a crew with a total of less than fourteen points.
All three Sailing events feature keelboats, which offer enhanced stability.


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