IFDS Disabled Sailing International Championship – Dennis Manning
From dreams of sailing as a young boy through to beating the world’s best in Australia, Dennis Manning returned from Perth last week triumphant after winning one of the most respected sailing events of its kind – the Blind Match Racing category of the IFDS Disabled Sailing International Championship. Part of a crew of three, two of whom were blind and the third partially sighted, he and the team represented Britain and emerged over six days from underdog status to champions, beating New Zealand in the final.
Using audio aids in the buoys and their keelboats to navigate the course, the controlled the head sail alongside helm Vicki Sheen and Nick Donnini mainsheet to gain a tight victory. He explained how they were left behind by an error but fought back “and it was a battle all the way. To the finish to win race 4 and to be first to 3 wins “When we crossed the line it was a great feeling – we had done it against all the odds.” .” The victory comes after a life-long fascination with boating that carried on from boyhood through to his thirties, when his partial sight gradually became worse , leading him to buy his first dinghy 35 years ago and take it out accompanied on Rollesby Broad oroff the coast at Gorleston.He then attended his first specific blind and visually impaired event in 1978 and moved on to compete nationally and internationally. “I just loved boats, and when I was a little kid from standing on a bridge and looking out at a cruiser I always wanted to sail,” he said. “It’s a beautiful sport. It’s both physical and mental, and at first I didn’t know that other blind and disabled people were going sailing.”
Dennis, who said that his greatest challenge in the sport “was to get people to accept I was going to go out and play boat”, trained with the crew just off the Isle of Wight ahead of the Australian championships last month. He listed the victory as the pinnacle of his many years in boating.