I met Kylie this summer when she was in Kingston for the Blind Fleet Racing World Championship hosted by the Kingston Yacht Club. Kylie Forth is completely blind and is a Blind Sailing silver medal winner as skipper of the Australian team. My brother-in-law, Tony, who is sighted, sails with the Canadian team.
The competition uses 24-foot Shark racing yachts with a small sail to the front and the main sail to the back. Each team has two blind crew and two sighted crew. One blind sailor is responsible for handling everything to do with the main sail, the other blind sailor is the skipper who steers the boat. One of the sighted crew handles the front sail and is not allowed to touch anything else without disqualifying the team. The other sighted crew is the strategist who tells the team when to tack, trim sails, or adjust heading. The strategist is not allowed to touch anything on the boat without disqualifying the team. Tony was strategist for the Canadian team. If a team is disqualified for any reason, they must complete a 360 degree turn to re-enter the race.
At the end of the regatta, Tony asked if I could give Kylie a ride to the train station, and I agreed. At the hotel, Tony advised that Kylie would need help with her luggage since her right leg was amputated at the hip. When Kylie left the hotel, she was walking with two crutches that wrapped around her arms, and was carrying two backpacks, one on her back and another on her chest. At the car, Kylie directed Tony and I to remove the front pack first. It was so heavy I almost dropped it. Kylie said it was about 20 pounds, and the back one about 40 pounds. I tried lifting the back one but couldn’t budge it. Tony lifted from the top and I lifted from the bottom to remove it from Kylie, then it took both of us to load it into the car.
I asked Kylie, “How do you manage to carry all this weight?” She laughed and replied, “It’s easy… I have three legs!”
- Dave Best