By Liesbeth Brederode
Located just over a half-hour drive away from the hustle and bustle of Scheveningen, para sailing takes place on the Braassemermeer. A total of 74 athletes in 58 boats compete for the title in the Hansa 303, 2.4mR, and RS Venture classes. From the terrace of the WV Braassemermeer clubhouse, you can follow the water races. What a beautiful location!
Hanna Stodel, herself a former Paralympic champion in the Sonar class, has been the Para Sailing Manager for World Sailing for the past four months. “But in this tournament, I also have the safety role, and I’m also in charge of the bridge (coordinating the racecourse from the shore, editor’s note),” she laughs. The three walkie-talkies on her belt vie for attention in turn. Fortunately, it’s mostly the race management announcing that everything is ready for the first race of the day. Everything is under control!
What exactly is the role of a Para Sailing Manager?
I am responsible for everything related to para sailing within World Sailing. This includes events, development, training, and promoting the sport in general.
That sounds like quite a task. What are you focusing on?
I have an important goal in mind: to get sailing back into the Paralympics. Since 2015, sailing has not been part of the Paralympic sports due to insufficient countries regularly participating in races. So, we want to grow, but my dream is to expand the sport inclusively. We now have the opportunity to make changes, to make the sport more accessible, beyond physical disabilities. For example, for people with autism or diabetes. Sailing is for everyone.
Can all types of boats be used for para sailing? How does that work?
We don’t have strict criteria for the boats, but we do work with preferred suppliers. The boats we currently sail with have been extensively tested and are safe. They can easily be adapted for various types of disabilities. Adaptations include adding a non-slip seat, handles, or an extra eyelet for better grip on the lines. Technology also plays an increasing role, for instance, it’s possible to steer and control the lines with a single joystick. This way, sailing becomes more accessible to a broader range of people.
Speaking of technology, are there any exciting new features at this event?
Fun fact: we’re currently using the new tracking system for the 2024 Olympic Games in Marseille. This World Championship serves as the test event. And it works perfectly, it’s more accurate and faster. So, we have the new trackers even before the Olympic athletes do!