Special Olympics Unified Sports is a program that combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition. In Unified Sports sailing, crews shall be comprised of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. If the boat is typically raced by a crew of 2, one member will be an individual with intellectual disabilities; if the boat is typically raced by a crew of 3 or more, the majority of the crew shall be individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Special Olympics Sailing is a collection of events where competitors with mental or physical disabilities sail a boat, as individuals or as part of a team. Special Olympics sailing is a form of sailing meant for physically or mentally disabled athletes. Special Olympics sailing has training and competition opportunities for individual and teams of Special Olympics athletes. As in all Special Olympics sports, athletes are grouped in competition divisions according to ability level, age and gender.
Sailing was introduced into the Special Olympics World Games for the first time in 1995. In 1999, the Special Olympics World Summer Games hosted 50 sailors from four Special Olympics programs. At the 2003 Special Olympics Worlds Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland, 60 sailors from seven programs competed at those games. As of 2005, 4,408 Special Olympics athletes competed in sailing.