The team of Rick Doerr, Hugh Freund and Brad Kendell won the bronze medal in the Sonar class in the third leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Saturday in the waters off Hyeres, France, capping a week that saw them qualify for a trip to compete in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Dee Smith also punched his ticket to Rio after placing sixth in the 2.4mR class.
Doerr, Freund and Kendell led the field entering the eighth and final race, but a ninth-place finish allowed boats from Norway and Great Britain to slip ahead of them on the podium. The head of the class for the United States since the London 2012 Games, they have garnered medals at some of the world’s most competitive adaptive sailing events.
A veteran of 16 years on the national team and the 2007 world champion in the Sonar class, Doerr will compete at the Paralympics for the second time after making his debut at the Beijing 2008 Games. Freund and Kendell have earned their first Paralympic start. In the past seven years the trio has won five medals at the world cup event in Miami, and in 2015 they received the Sunbrella Golden Torch Award, presented to the top-performing boat at the Miami event. It marked the first time Paralympic-class athletes received the award in the regatta’s 26-year history.
Smith used a first-place finish in the eighth race, his best result of the regatta, to vault into sixth place. Earning his spot on the Paralympic team caps a rapid rise to the top for the professional sailing consultant who has more than 35 years experience. He began his campaign for Rio 2016 just one year ago, earning top-10 finishes at the open and disabled world championships along the way. He entered the Hyeres regatta three points behind national team veteran Charlie Rosenfield, but closed that margin quickly and emerged as the team selection.
Competition concludes in Hyeres Sunday with medal races in the 10 Olympic classes.