Qingdao, China (September 9, 2008) - It was another successful day for Team USA today, with two teams each winning two out of their three races. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) are enjoying the view from the top in the 11-boat SKUD-18 class, after grabbing two bullets and a third place finish today. After also winning two races today, John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) now sits in second place in the 2.4 mR, only one point shy of the leader, Paul Tingley of Canada.
"We couldn't be more proud of their performances," said Head Coach Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.). "They sailed consistently out on the water and were persistent. That's all we can ask. As long as they stay positive and on track, things will come together in the end."
Ruf credits his two winning performances today with a strong start, fast speed and smart tactical decisions. In a tight and competitive fleet like the 2.4 mR, sailors must rely on finding their edge to claim a lead. One bad start or one missed opportunity, and they're left behind. In Ruf's first race today, he felt his start wasn't stellar but he jumped on the first shift before the rest of the fleet, which gave him the advantage sailing down-wind. He then guided down the shift quicker than the three boats in front of him, so he was able to pass them and take the lead. In contrast, Ruf said he had his best start of the series in the third race of the day, and everything clicked. "I nailed the start, and it was all downhill from there," he said.
"I haven't won that many races in my career, so it's pretty remarkable," said Ruf after racing today. "I have to get myself back on the planet." While Ruf basks in the glow of two bullets today, he knows there's more work to be done. "If I keep my speed up and keep sailing smart, I think things will go well," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Ruf's coach, Marko Dahlberg (Ylojarvi, Finland) credits Ruf with his smart tactical decisions on the water: Ruf knows when to tack and how to play with China's strong current. Most importantly, Dahlberg said, "Speed is our key. I think we are the fastest boat in the world."
Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker padded their lead in the SKUD-18 class with two more wins today. They dropped their "worst" score today, an enviable third place finish. Despite a slow start in their first race today, they managed to pick off boats one by one, and claimed the lead by a substantial distance. After a brilliant start in their second race, Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker strongly suspected they started early. Fearing the worst, they circled back and restarted. Despite this initial setback, they relied on their boat speed and a little luck to capture the lead. On the first leg, the fleet leaders mistakenly mistook a mark from another course, and other boats followed suit. Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker diverted from the pack and headed for the correct mark for the SKUD-18 course, capturing the lead.
The duo first started racing together a year ago, when Scandone switched from the 2.4 mR to the double-handed SKUD-18. Ever since, they have been an unstoppable force in this competitive fleet, winning the 2007 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials and US SAILING's 2008 Rolex Miami OCR by wide margins. McKinnon-Tucker credits their teamwork with their success: "Nick and I just really gel, and we work well together as a team," she said. "I feel very privileged to sail with him."
"There isn't a lot of chatter on the boat," she said. "We manage to know what each other is feeling without words. It's different than any other team I have sailed with. Everything just clicks."
"Of course, it could be because we're both Pisces," she added.
The Sonar team of skipper Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), and his crew, Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass.) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J.), faced a tough day on the water today - condition- and competition-wise. The light and shifty breeze forced them to commit to the sides of the course early, but one slight misstep or delay proved to be costly. Despite some good starts, Doerr and his team weren't able to capitalize on the side opportunities when they presented themselves, said Alison. "They're positive and looking forward to the second half of the series," said Alison today. "We have a lot of racing left."
The athletes will be able to recharge their batteries tomorrow during the scheduled Reserve Day. Because they had five races under their belts, sailors were able to drop their worst scores today. After nine races, they will be able to drop a second score. The sailors will race a total of eleven races over five days throughout the week. Medals will be awarded on the final day of racing, Saturday, September 13. There will not be a medal race in the Paralympic Regatta, unlike the Olympic Regatta last month.
Current Standings for U.S. Paralympic Sailors (For full results please visit ISAF's web site: www.sailing.org/24859.php )
SKUD-18: 11 boats
1. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif., USA) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass., USA), 2, 1, 1, 1, (3); 5
2. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox, AUSTRALIA, (4), 2, 2, 2, 2; 8
3. John Scott McRoberts and Stacie Louttit, CANADA, (3), 3, 3, 3, 1; 10
Sonar: 14 boats
1. Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, FRANCE, 4, 1, 1, 2, (8); 8
2. Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Graeme Martin, AUSTRALIA, (8), 4, 2, 3, 3; 12
3. Jens Kroker, Robert Prem, Siegmund Mainka, GERMANY, 5, (6), 3, 1, 4; 13
7*. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J., USA), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass., USA) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J., USA), 1, 9, 10, 7, (12); 27
*USA scores are not final; pending protests
2.4 mR: 16 boats
1. Paul Tingley, CANADA, 1, 1, 5, 2, (9); 9
2. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis., USA), 2, 6, 1, (9), 1; 10
3. Heiko Kroger, GERMANY, 3, 2, (11), 6, 4; 15