Around 7,300 sailors worldwide took part in Bart's Bash 2016 at the weekend, helping to raise money and awareness of disabled sailing.
Over the weekend (17-18 September), 363 clubs and sailing venues in 58 countries took part in Bart’s Bash, helping to raising tens of thousands of pounds for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation (ASSF).
The charity, set up in memory of Olympic sailor, Andrew Simpson, aims to improve the lives of young people through sailing.
Bart’s Bash, which started in 2014, is, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest sailing race in the world.
This year, the event aimed to raise awareness of disabled sailing.
It comes following the announcement that sailing will be cut from the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
The chief executive officer of the ASSF, Richard Percy, is also quick to point out that the emphasis during Bart’s Bash is on fun, engagement and encouraging more people, especially youngsters, to take to the water in memory of Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson, wherever they happen to be in the world.
“In the space of two days, we have witnessed international support from thousands of people in 363 venues across 58 countries. We have had Olympic sailors and America’s Cup sailors competing against youngsters who have just learnt to sail and those who race on a regular basis at club level. This event captures the imagination of people from inside and outside of the sailing world,” he said.
“At the same time as getting thousands of people sailing, Bart’s Bash raises awareness of, and funds for, disabled sailing which, during the past week we have seen being displayed at the highest levels at the Paralympics and it’s just a shame that it is being dropped,” reflected Percy.
“Hopefully this can be reconsidered for the next cycle and in the meantime, we can continue to keep opportunities for those with disabilities available,” he stressed.
Overall, results are significantly ahead than in previous years and it is hoped that provisional results will be announced soon.
Early signs show the youth classes are dominating the ‘Top Classes’ league table, ticking all the right boxes for the foundation
Bart’s Bash was given an enormous boost with ‘show your support’ messages from some very high profile sailing supporters who took to the water and to the social media channels in support of their friend Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson.
ASSF founding trustees include the America’s Cup sailors Sir Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy OBE who in turn brought on board America’s Cup teams in Bermuda, Artemis Racing, Oracle Team USA and SoftBank Team Japan to join in the fun and the fundraising, and building on Simpson’s legacy.
Bart’s Bash was also supported by members of the British Sailing Team, some just back from Rio and sporting Olympic medals.
Giles Scott, Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills and Nick Dempsey were joined by Luke Patience and Dylan Fletcher, amongst others who were racing at the HQ at the Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy (WPNSA), UK, where the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre (ASSC) is based.
The decision to focus Bart’s Bash 2016 on raising awareness of and funds for disabled sailing was taken following the removal of sailing from the Paralympics.
Sailing is one of the few sports where those with disabilities can and do compete equally with their able-bodied peers.
The funding and development manager for the ASSF and Bart’s Bash event organiser, Tim Anderton said participation had been incredible.
“It has been great to see disabled sailors competing on the same courses as able-bodied sailors at venues across the world over the past weekend in Bart’s Bash,” he said.
“We have Sailability clubs registered in a number of countries, including the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Sweden and South Africa with many more results still to come in,” he continued.
“We want to support these clubs by providing training and equipment, and by subsidising the costs of coaching for schools who attend ongoing and sustainable sailing sessions at venues who have the right kit and volunteers. We want to work with sailing providers to start to overcome some of the barriers that exist and to increase the availability of sailing for those with disabilities,” stressed Anderton.
“We also want to work with national organisations to ensure there is a good training programme in place to allow people to progress into racing and hopefully into future Paralympic Games when sailing is reintroduced,” he concluded.
To date, £34,969 has been raised, although clubs are still collecting money.
Next year’s Bart’s Bash will take place between 16-17 September.
Organised in memory of Olympic sailor, Andrew “Bart” Simpson, Bart’s Bash is the world’s largest sailing event where thousands of sailors take to the water.
To date, 1,671 participants in 44 countries have signed up to take part in the 2016 event.
Team GB’s Olympic sailing medallists are also backing Bart’s Bash, which is organised annually by the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation (ASSF).
Hannah Mills, Saskia Clark and Nick Dempsey will all be taking part at Portland Harbour.
This year, Bart’s Bash coincides with the end of the Rio 2016 Paralympics and the ASSF and the RYA are working together to raise funds and awareness for disabled sailing around the world.
The event is also being officially supported by World Sailing, the governing body of the sport.
Trustee of the ASSF and skipper of America’s Cup team, Land Rover BAR, Sir Ben Ainslie, said: “People know how close the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation is to my heart, and it was fantastic to see so many people supporting the charity at the last Bart’s Bash.”
“We as a Foundation are delighted to see Bart’s Bash continue to grow as an event, and we’re all looking forward to getting on the water to have some fun in Bart’s name,” he added.
Grafham Water Sailing Club in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, is one of the venues signed up for Bart’s Bash 2016.
Commodore of the club,Peter Saxton, said: “For us it would be odd not to take part in such a fun and worldwide event. It gives us a good opportunity to help others whilst enjoying our own sport and to work with those who share our water including Graham Water Centre with their younger RYA OnBoard sailors and Grafham Sailability.”
“We’re hoping to have another successful event -there are lots of potential disabled sailors without the means or connections to get out on the water so we want to help them as well,” he added.
Andrew Simpson tragically died in May 2013 while training for the America’s Cup.
Teamed with Iain Percy, the pair won gold in the Star class in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and took silver in London 2012.
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