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Vicki Sheen

Vicki Sheen is a physiotherapist who lives in Brixham, a small fishing harbour in Devon. She lives with her husband Ivan; they have been together since their last year at school. They are both passionate about their sporting activities.  This started with skiing, Vicki representing GB in Alpine ski events while Ivan became a ski instructor. This moved onto sailing, with them both racing on different boats in the Torbay fleets, they do sometimes race on the same boat, but in Vicki’s words “Its a bit like husband teaching his wife to drive, it works best if there is at least three crew positions between us, then we don’t argue.”.  More recently alongside her sailing Vicki has taken up scuba diving, having recently obtained her Recreational Divers PADDI qualification. If anyone has ideas on a compass which will work under water then let her know as she is exploring how to do the navigation module for her more advanced qualification.

Vicki was born with only ten per cent vision, gradually losing this by her late twenties. At this point she then trained with her first guide dog Rhea, a black Labrador.

Her first guide dog changed her life. Still appearing sighted, Vicki had never been good at requesting help and explaining she was visually impaired, now with a guide dog, no explanations were needed and this new partnership enabled Vicki to explore new places travelling independently around the country.  Rhea became firm friends with yacht club members all round the country as they both travelled together to sailing regattas.

Vicki is a Pisces, loves water, constantly wants to be in it, or on it. Vicki was one of the founder members of “The Aqua Bats” an adventurous canoe club in the centre of London.  She then learned to windsurf on a small man made lake. This taught her a valuable lesson in pre planning and establishing good communication.  Her first lesson out on the water, returning rather fast back to the slip way, they had never discussed speed, or the need to communicate distances, the result was on returning, Vicki’s wind surfer was laurnched two thirds up the slip way, with Vicki doing a  forward roll over the front of the wind surfer onto dry land.

The natural progression was  sailing, this was a  RYA weekend course at the Ireland Sailing club Sulcombe Devon, Vicki  turned up with a friend from London, explained about her sight problem and the sailing instructors coped admirably.  This gave her the confidence to approach her local sailing club, Brixham Yacht Club.  The Commodore David Semmens and his family Sue and Sean Semmens, were keen to help and it wasn’t long before Vicki found her self racing regularly in local club events. From there Vicki joined sonar team training with the para-olympic teams and from there was introduced to the British Blind Racing Sailing Association.

Through blind sailing Vicki has raced in world Championships in; America, Italy, New Zealand and more recently, supported by an excellent UK blind Sailing training programme,  has attended the March 2011 Perth World blind match racing Championships with Nick Donnini and Dennis Manning,  coming away with a gold medal.  Vicki and Nick along with Gary Butler entered the British National Fleet Racing Championships in May 2011 in Ipswich.  Though Vicki is a B1 helm (Having no residual sight), to help with numbers they raced in the B3 fleet (For helms with better partial sight), they came away with the silver medal. They then followed this with a first place in The Italian match racing Nationals June 2011 Salo on Lake Garda.

In 1999 Vicki joined a committed group of visually impaired and sighted sailors, to set up the British Blind Sailing Racing Association, this was to become Blind Sailing UK of which Vicki was the Commodor for six years and still plays an active part on the committee. Keen to progress and develop sailing opportunities for all sailors with a disability Vicki became one of RYA Sailability’s Awareness Trainers, in this role she travelled to clubs around the UK delivering training programmes for Disabled sailing groups and sailing instructors.  In 2000 Vicki became a trustee of RYA Sailability and in 2001 she joined the RYA council representing the needs of disabled sailors.

As Head of Physiotherapy for Torbay Care Trust Vicki’s time is completely absorbed either by work or sailing. When she’s not helming in a Blind sailing event, then she is main sheeting on Firefox or Xcellent two local boats in the Torbay fleets.

Now working with her fourth guide dog Zeke a yellow Labrador she has finally found a guide dog which loves sailing, on the rare occasions when she is cruising, not racing, Zeke loves coming out with them, sitting up on the side with his ears being blown back and his nose scenting the breeze. As a physio surrounded by dark trousers, Vicki did request another black lab like her first one rhea, to be more precise, Vicki requested a navy blue one to match the uniform, or grey with a pin stripe, but black would do.  it was not to be, definitely yellow, big and muscular and definitely a boy, he is great fun and is not only very caring and willing but is also great fun and a real clown.

Vicki is now working hard with her team mate Nick to take their sailing and recent achievements to the next level.  Exploring ways to promote both fleet and blind match racing and find ways to expand more sailing opportunities within the more readily available sighted sailing events.


One Comment Post a comment
  1. John Norman #

    Reading Vicki’s life story is so impressive and inspiring.
    I have been asked to be the training officer for VISA visually impaired group.

    I am very keen to contact Vicky as to how I am best going to achieve this.

    I have been asked to run a RYA Day Skipper course for visually impaired sailors.
    This will be a great challenge to me and I would welcome the opportuntiy to speak to
    Vicky about this.
    My name is John Norman and my contact details are:
    Tel 07929 863858.

    Thank you,


    November 8, 2011

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