On January 31st 2015, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced their decision to exclude Sailing from the 2020 Paralympics, causing an overwhelming amount of worldwide dispute by the sailing community.
With over a year’s worth of decision making, it was announced that Sailing and 7 a-side Football were found to not fulfil the minimum requirements for worldwide reach as stated in the IPC’s handbook. This decision has sparked outrage, shock and disappointment with many arguing that such a decision is a backward step for the sports which has shown strong growth and popularity in recent years.
Paralympic Sailing debuted at the 1996 Atlanta games as a demonstrative sport and was brought back as an official medal sport in the 2000 Sydney games. As a sport which is open to anyone with an impairment - classified against stability, hand-function, mobility and vision - Sailing is often described as offering opportunities for a broad range of disabilities.
With a maximum of 23 sports in the Paralympics, the IPC has concluded that only 22 sports will feature in the 2020 Tokyo games. Among the 22 sports given a place were two new sports to the Paralympics; Badminton and Taekwondo. Yet despite sailing appearing in the 2016 Paralympics as well as the past 4 games, it was concluded that the sport was not as widely and regularly practised as is required by the committee for consideration.
This exclusion has resulted in an outpour of dispute by many recognised organisations and influential members within the sailing community, such as the Royal Yacht Association, International Sailing Federation (ISAF), British Marine Federation and many more worldwide. The ISAF have stated that they will make “every effort” to see the sport reinstated for the 2020 games, whilst members of the public are doing what they can to contest the IPC’s decision. An online petition set up by UKSA student, Will Matthews, has received nearly 14,000 signatures with support from prominent sailing figures such as Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Helena Lucas who won gold in sailing at the London 2012 Paralympics.