BLIND sailors based in Wirral are in strict training to tackle a global challenge in Japan in two years time. . . . with the help of a Mermaid.

If the enterprising Japanese can recover sufficiently from recent disasters to stage the World Blind Sailing Championships in 2013 then the north’s blind yachtsmen, who have strong connections with the Royal Mersey Yacht Club, will be "up for it" according to Rob Owen, chairman of the UK North Blind Sailing Association.

Members of the group, both blind and sighted, have had their horizons widened with the recent acquisition of their own yacht – Mermaid – bought with a £5,000 grant from the Morgan Foundation.

The yacht is being refurbished in preparation for the coming season’s racing in local waters.

Said Rob: “We believe this is a very positive step forward for our group and we hope that the inclusion of blind sailors by the Royal Mersey Yacht Club in their club activities will give a great many of our blind sailors the opportunity to race the Mermaid against other RMYC members and also take part in the club’s social events.”

Rob, who has been involved in blind racing for almost 20 years, confided: “It is a brilliant sport for blind people. There is no age limit; you don’t have to run miles or light heavy weights. You just have to reasonably fit, active and motivated.”

Sighted colleagues are on hand to provide help when needed . But Rob insisted: “The real excitement comes from being competitive and in pitting your skills on an equal basis with everyone else.

“The real buzz is being able to do something totally different and achievable.”

The UK North Blind Sailing Association’s roots go back to October 2008 when a pilot group of six blind people from Merseyside and local volunteers organised a taster sail training sessions at Queen’s Dock, Liverpool. Following the success of the event members went on to organise fund-raising events at Plas Menai National Water Sport Centre in North Wales.

They successfully applied for a National Lottery grant to fund 40 places for visually-impaired people to attend beginners sail training week-end courses at Plas Menai.

Funds raised over the past 12 months – principally from contributions from the Liverpool Barristers Christmas Pantomimes and Friends of the Sea – went towards the creation of Royal Yachting Association dinghy sailing courses at West Kirby Marine Lake and the purchase of a 145-seater mini bus.