Adaptive Sailing


What is Classification?

A small number of disabled sailors participate in US Sailing National Championships and events that determine places on the US Paralympic Sailing Team. These sailors require national classification for events in the United States.


Classification assesses the function of disabled sailors in order to quantify their level of disability, ranging from 1 (Severely Disabled) to 7 (Minimally Disabled). It also establishes their eligibility to compete in major events that determine championships.

Functional classification provides an equitable means of quantifying a person’s ability to participate in a sport. The criteria in the US Sailing Functional Classification System (FCS) and Procedures Manual are based on the functions required to compete in Para Sailing events, and may differ from those required for other sports or for the activities of daily living.

The main physical functions of sailing have been identified as:
  • Ability to compensate for the movement of the boat (stability)
  • Ability to operate the control lines and the tiller (hand function)
  • Ability to move about in the boat (mobility)
  • Ability to see while racing (vision)
These functions have been further refined to test:
  • Steering
  • Sheeting
  • Cleating
  • Transferring
  • Hiking
The level of disability assigned to the sailor is used to determine the athlete’s eligibility to compete in Para Sailing events:
  • One person keelboat – i.e. 2.4mR; Hansa 303 (Minimum Disability rating from 1 to 7 points)
  • Two person keelboat – (8 points total 2 males; 9 points total 1M/1F; 10 Points total 2 Females)
The FCS Manual has no criteria for assessing some categories of impairment, so classifiers cannot evaluate sailors with:
  • Minimal physical impairment of the hands or feet (due to osteoarthritis, e.g.) that may not be significant enough to functionally impair a sailor
  • Functional impairments due to pain, obesity or hearing loss
  • Disabilities resulting from emotional or intellectual impairment

Individuals with these impairments cannot be classified and are not eligible to compete in US Sailing Championships or select international events.

Interested in becoming a Classifier?

The US Sailing Functional Classification System measures the sailor’s ability in order to:

  • ensure equitable competition at all levels for sailors of varied levels of ability
  • encourage crews of mixed ability to compete together and complement each other
  • quantify functional limitations caused only by physical disability

Classifiers are responsible for the classification of disabled sailors. Medical professionals trained in the US Sailing Functional Classification System (FCS) are eligible to become classifiers.

Learn more about becoming a Classifier