ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (December 5, 2010) – American, Canadian, and British skippers and their teams each won a Paralympic division at Sunday's third and final round of racing at the U.S. Disabled Sailing Championships (USDSC) in St. Petersburg, Fla. This US SAILING National Championship, hosted by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, featured racers competing in one of three Paralympic classes: 2.4mR (singlehanded), SKUD-18 (doublehanded), and Sonar (triplehanded). Canadian Bruce Millar (Richmond, B.C. CAN) won the 2.4mR fleet, U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) sailors Scott Whitman (Brick, N.J.) and Julia Dorsett (Westchester, Pa.) were winners in the SKUD-18s, and British skipper John Robertson (Portland, Dorset, GBR) and his crewmates Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas captured the Sonar division.
A 10 knot Southwesterly breeze greeted the competitors this morning on Tampa Bay. However, showers delayed the start of racing for a half-an-hour. Eventually, races were held under bright blue skies and 12 to 16 knot breezes with occasional brisky puffs. Each fleet completed seven races through three days of competition, including three on Sunday.
Millar won 4-of-7 races including the first two of the regatta on Friday and the first two today. He won by eight points over Great Britain's Megan Pascoe (Portland, Dorset GBR), who was in contention for most of the regatta. Millar felt right at home on Tampa Bay, where he has spent a considerable amount of time sailing. He won the singlehanded division at the USDSC in 2008. Canadian Paul Tingley (Halifax, N.S. CAN) finished third and the top U.S. sailor was Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La./USSTAG) who was fourth. The Judd Goldman Trophy is awarded annually to the singlehanded division winner.
Whitman and Dorsett cruised to the win this weekend. They led from start to finish by winning the first six races of the regatta. Whitman was please the boat speed the team was able to generate for the championship. This allowed them to focus on staying in the best pressure, while keeping their eyes on the shifts. The 2009 SKUD-18 champion Jen French (St. Petersburg, Fla./USSTAG) and crew Jean-Paul Creignou (St. Petersburg, Fla.) finished in second and six points behind the winners. They won race seven today. The Chandler Hovey Trophy is awarded annually to the doublehanded division winner.
Team Robertson sealed the win today by a nine point margin over skipper Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), a 2008 U.S. Paralympian, and his crew Brad Kendall (Tampa, Fla.) and Hugh Freund (S. Freeport, Me.). Doerr won the 2008 USDSC triplehanded division. Robertson won without having to sail in the last race. He attributed his team's keys to success to getting good starts and catching the first shift off the line. Robertson has been sailing with Stodel and Thomas for eight years. Stodel calls the shifts and tactics, while Thomas takes care of boat speed. The Gene Hinkel Trophy is awarded annually to the triplehanded division winner.
The U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship is the only sailing national championship for disabled sailors. This championship is one of two qualifying events for the 2011 US SAILING Team AlphaGraphics' Paralympic classes. The 2012 Paralympic Regatta will take place August 29-September 9, 2012 in Weymouth/Portland, England. The regatta was being run this weekend in conjunction with the America's Disabled Open on Tampa Bay.
Congratulations are in order for Linda Merkle, president of the International Federation of Disabled Sailors (IFDS), for being honored Saturday night with US SAILING's Gay S. Lynn Memorial Trophy. The award is presented to an individual or an organization, selected by the Council for Sailors with Disabilities, who has made an outstanding contribution to sailors with disabilities and to the sport of disabled sailing over a sustained period of time. Merkle is an Atlanta, Ga. native.
In the 2.4mR class, each sailor must have a valid classification rating of 1-7 in order to compete. The Sonar fleet is sailed with three disabled sailors. To be eligible for the 2011 USSTAG, the Sonar team may not exceed 14 classification points total. In the SKUD-18 class, per team one sailor must be severely disabled (classification rating of a 1 or 2) and the other sailor must have any valid classification rating (1-7). At least one of the team members must be a female.
Managed by US SAILING, the event is open to any sailor with a physical disability. Participants have included quadriplegics, paraplegics and amputees, as well as individuals with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, polio and ALS. Several past participants of this championship have gone on to compete in the Paralympic Games, including 2008 Paralympic Gold Medalist and two-time USDSC Singlehanded Champion (2005, 2004), the late Nick Scandone. Many of this year's participants have Paralympic ambitions.
Since the 1980s, US SAILING has actively supported sailboat racing among physically challenged sailors. The inaugural championship, then called the Independence Cup, took place in 1990 and the event was held in conjunction with the North American Challenge Cup by the Chicago Yacht Club. Beginning in 2008, the U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship has been hosted by different sailing organizations around the country to expand awareness of disabled sailing and encourage disabled individuals to take up the sport.