Racing sailboats of two distinct varieties, some carrying sailors who are blind or visually handicapped, are taking part tomorrow in the third annual Budweiser Sail for Sight Regatta in Baltimore Harbor.
Participants have raised pledges for contributions to the RP Foundation Fighting Blindness, which is seeking a cure for the disease retinitis pigmentosa and other retinal disorders suffered by some 2 million people in the United States. Race headquarters is the HarborView Marina on Key Highway.
As in past regattas, a fleet of perhaps 45 racing sloops of various sizes, about 22 feet and up, will compete in an around-the-buoys event in the outer harbor between Fort McHenry and the Key Bridge. The start is scheduled at 4 p.m.
For the first time, the race is a sanctioned event of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association, and the local sponsoring club is the Baltimore City Yacht Association. Some well-known yachtsmen competing include Arnold Gay, Mike Hobson and Will Keyworth, as well as event founder and honorary chairman Jim Dickson.
Dickson, who went blind 20 years ago when stricken by RP, attempted a solo Atlantic sail crossing in 1987. In tomorrow's race, he will be aboard a boat sailed by another blind skipper, Jim Stoffel.
Newly participating in the Sail for Sight this year are sailors from Hobie Cat Fleet 54, whose vessels are the familiar swift catamarans with colorful sails and whose crew members sometimes dangle from trapeze gear to help keep the boats from capsizing.
The Fleet 54 participation was arranged by member Frank Orzolek, who is severely visually impaired because of RP. He and his sister, Cathy, also an RP victim, will be sailing in separate boats in a race that begins at 4 p.m. on a course laid out in the Inner Harbor off the HarborView docks.
The Hobie race should be easily seen by shoreside spectators.
Previous editions of Sail for Sight have raised about $20,000 for RP research, and organizers have set $25,000 as this year's goal.