Saturday, March 14, 2009

Visually impaired man to represent the USA at Sailing Championship in New Zealand

Despite losing his vision, Jason Wallenstein never stopped sailing.

This past weekend, the Sharon native left for the Bay of Plenty in Rotorua, New Zealand, for the 2½-week Blind Sailing World Championships.

Wallenstein’s team of four visually impaired sailors from the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton will represent the United States along with a team from California.

“I’ve been sailing all my life, since I was 4 years old,” said Wallenstein, who began losing his vision in 2001 because of diabetes.

When Wallenstein began going to the Carroll Center for rehabilitation in 2004, he discovered the center’s recreational and competitive sailing programs.

“I never raced in my life until I got to the Carroll Center,” he said. “It came quite easily, actually.”

He is racing in the B3 division, for those who are least visually impaired.

Wallenstein’s crew will compete in Noelex 25 sailboats, which Wallenstein described as “little Lamborghinis on the water.”

“They’re fast, very agile and they really do move,” he said. “They just accelerate so quickly. If you’re not paying attention, they can get out of control.”

Sailing without seeing the waves, land or other boats can be difficult, Wallenstein said.

“Getting disoriented is easy, but knowing where the wind is coming from is not so easy, because you can’t see telltales (wind indicators),” he said.

Each team of four sailors is accompanied by four sighted guides, but the guides are not allowed to touch the sails or the tiller unless the boat is about to flip over or collide with something.

“It’s great that all these people out there are willing to help us become accomplished in doing what we love,” Wallenstein said.

More information and race results are available at


Post a Comment

<< Home