Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blind sailors compete in New Zealand

From The Dominion Post in New Zealand:

Blind amputee sailor Kylie Forth (pictured) calls herself a thrill-seeker.

The 22-year-old Perth law student is competing this week at Rotorua in the World Blind Sailing Championships.

Ms Forth is the skipper on one of the 19 crews from 10 countries at the week-long championships being held at Lake Rotorua.

The Noelex 25-class crews compete in three categories depending on their level of sight B1 (totally blind), B2 (10 per cent vision) and B3 (20 per cent vision).

New Zealand are the defending world champions in all three divisions.

Tauranga-based Paulien Eitjes (B2) is tipped to take the world title in her category, having won eight successive races up to March 19.

Results in the B1 class have been varied for Ms Forth's Australian crew of herself, blind sailing partner Ryan Honschooten, (pictured) and their two able-sighted crew members, Michael Leydon and Jacek Turczynowicz, who can offer only support roles on the boat.

The team has a best place of third but is not in the top three overall placings so far.
Italy and Norway lead the B1 division with two race days to go.

Ms Forth lost her eyesight to cancer as a baby. Cancer also claimed her right leg above the knee when she was nine.

She tried sailing five years ago on a tall ship in Perth and it whetted her appetite to learn how to sail. "I was on the ship on a very windy day in Perth and really loved it.

"It's not scary, I like being a thrill-seeker."

Now she and Mr Honschooten race in club regattas every Wednesday on Perth's Swan River.

Mr Honschooten, 34, has been sailing for 15 years.

Sailing downwind was the most difficult part of racing, Ms Forth said. "You need to feel the wind and get the feel of the boat, so downwind is a lot more difficult than sailing into the wind."

The crew got together only last week, so it had been a learning curve for all four sailors, she said.