Sailing appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games and in 2000 was included in the Paralympic Games competition programme as a medal sport with events for the Sonar (three-person keelboat) and the 2.4mR (single-person keelboat). The sailing marina in Rushcutters Bay was host to 15 entries from the Sonar class and 17 from the 2.4mR class.
New Zealanders competed at the first demonstration paralympic sailing event in the Sonar and finished fifth. At the 2000 Games, New Zealand was represented in both the 2.4mR and the Sonar.
The race format for the Paralympic sailing events is essentially the same as it is for the Olympic Games, although all events are fleet racing, and there is no medal race.
The fleet racing is run on a low points scoring system - the boat at the end of the competition who has the least number of points wins.
All three fleets are scheduled to sail 11 races. The boat who finishes first in a race scores one point, second place scores two points, third place scores three point and so on. Sailors are allowed to exclude their worst score.
The classification system for sailing assigns a point score to each athlete based on the athlete's ability to perform tasks specific to the sport. The higher the point score, the more ability the athlete is considered to have.
Classification is used to level the playing field where there is a variety of disability levels – in the three-person keelboat, the total classification points of all three sailors must not exceed a maximum of 14 points.
The design of the keelboats used in Paralympic competition compared to the Olympic sport provides greater stability, and the boats have open cockpits to allow more room for the sailors.
There are three Paralympic sailing events: one-, two- and three-person keelboats.
Sonar - three-person keelboat: each athlete is assigned a point score between 1 and 7 based on the impact of the athlete's impairment to perform tasks on the boat. The lower the point score, the greater the impact of the athlete’s impairment on their ability to sail. The total classification points of all three sailors must not exceed a maximum of 14 points.
SKUD 18 - two-person keelboat: athletes are assigned a class of TPA if they have an impairment with a greater impact on their ability to sail. TPB athletes have an impairment with a lesser impact on their ability to sail. One TPA athlete and one TPB athlete make up the team of a two-person keelboat.
2.4 mR- single-person keelboat: the athlete must meet the minimum eligibility requirement for the sport, the equivalent of a point 7 in the three-person keelboat.