Blind sailor, Kris Scheppe (Naples, Fla.), has overcome his sight limitations in a myriad of ways through his adventurous goals and achievements, and now he wants to share that excitement and passion with others.
Scheppe was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a genetic eye disease, at a young age. Over time, he lost his peripheral vision and is legally blind in most cases.
Scheppe, 37, has been sailing since he was 11. He started sailing with his parents aboard a San Juan 21 on Lake Norman in North Carolina. His father taught him the art of sailing. After moving to Wisconsin in 1994, Scheppe and his father frequently cruised Lake Michigan.
In his college years, he founded the Florida Gulf Coast University Sailing Club in Fort Myers, and the program is now an active participant in the Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA). “When I started at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fall of 2004, Edison Sailing Center was hosting weekly sailing on campus. As soon as we discussed getting a FGCU sailing club started, I stepped up. I wanted others to have the opportunity to sail and race while at FGCU and I did what I could to make it happen.”
After graduating from FGCU, Scheppe started Blind Sailing Unlimited, a non-profit whose mission is to provide day sailing, coastal cruising, offshore passage, and racing opportunities for the blind and visually impaired.
An accomplished racer, here are a few of Scheppe’s top sailing results:
- 2016 Boston Open Blind Sailing Regatta – 1st place
- 2016 Blind Match Racing World Championship – 3rd place
- 2015 U.S. Disabled Championship – 2nd place
- 2015 Blind Fleet Racing World Championship – 3rd place
- 2014 Blind Match Racing World Championship – 3rd place
Scheppe has logged thousands of open ocean sea miles over the years and one of his goals is to be the first legally blind person to sail around the world non-stop.
Scheppe is a US Sailing certified Basic Keelboat Instructor, and in May, he will be taking the US Sailing Adaptive Sailing Instructor Workshop. “I am looking forward to sharing my passion for sailing with many others who are blind and visually impaired, and having the opportunity to grow the next generation of sailors. I really liked working with and learning from my peers. It was a great group from different backgrounds who had great insight. I think we all taught each other great teaching techniques.”
“As the American representative for Blind Sailing International, I am striving to grow blind sailing in North America and get more events organized. I am also one of the newest members of the US Sailing Match Racing Committee. I’m looking forward to getting into more offshore racing in the future. Thank you to all the awesome people at US Sailing!”