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Helena's blog: Why I love sailing

Published 8 February 2024

Hey, I'm Helena! I’m 14 and a hearing-impaired sailor in high performance foiling boats called Waszps. I have a rare form of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), moderate to severe hearing loss, and tinnitus on top of that!

I’m proud to be a member of the National Under 18 WASZP Squad with the Athena Pathway. It’s an initiative led by Hannah Mills OBE and supported by Sailing Fast with the Andrew Simpson Performance Academy. The pathway leads to the Women’s America’s Cup.

Waszps are very high-tech foiling boats, which means that they fly over the water on ‘foils’. They travel at incredible speeds above the water. On top of that, I’m currently on my second year of the Royal Yachting Association’s Southwest Topper Regional Training Group.

This year, I’m aiming to compete in the WASZP National Championships and as many European events as I can get to. I’ll also do a few Topper larger events as well as their Nationals. My real aim is to be ready for the WASZP World Championships which comes to Weymouth, UK, in 2025. It should be spectacular. By then I’ll be 16. I can’t wait to meet sailors from all over the world.

As well as my single-handed sailing, I participate in match racing competitions on Elan 333s with a team of 10 other teenagers. My favourite position on the yachts is pit, as my role is incredibly exciting. I’m watching out for wind shifts, gusts and waves, other boats, timing and hoisting and dropping the sails, as well as adjusting the sail settings.

I’ve been sailing all my life, even falling asleep in the bottom of my family's boat when I was two to three years old. I got my first boat when I was around seven, which was pink, named after a pigeon and looked like a bathtub.

I realised I had hearing issues in 2021, but I have had hearing loss my whole life and never realised.

Without full hearing, sailing can be a challenging sport to compete in. Hearing the whistles, coaches and safety info is impossible with all the wind, waves and noise. With APD, this becomes extra challenging, as the background noise stops me from hearing anything at all.

To cope with this for my yacht racing, my team has learnt sign language. For example, they'll the fingerspelling letter ‘t’ for tacking, 'j' for gybing and ‘g’ for genoa. This inclusivity has made me feel part of the team, and not just a ‘deaf girl’.

My coaches use my Phonak Roger Focus microphone on land and flags on the water for the starts. I would love waterproof hearing aids to help me hear on the water.

In 2023, I managed to persuade my parents to buy me a Waszp. At first, it was the most absolutely terrifying, but thrilling experience I have ever had, and I have been totally hooked ever since. The feeling of flying across the harbour, with the boat leaning on top of you is something you can’t replicate.

I have never met another deaf sailor, let alone another deaf foiling sailor. I would definitely recommend sailing, foiling or any form of water sports to any deaf person despite the challenges. Being in complete control of what happens to you is something myself and many of my hard-of-hearing friends find they rarely have.

Some say sailing isn’t about winning. They’re wrong. Everyone wins every time they’re on the water. Results are irrelevant. I hope I can inspire you to get out there.


Helena (14) is a deaf sailor with Auditory Processing Disorder and moderate to severe hearing loss. It doesn’t hold her back. She’s not only on the National Under 18 WASZP Squad but is on the South-West Topper Royal Yachting Association Training Group.