Just a year after sailing debuted as a full-medal sport at the 2000 Paralympic Games, many of the athletes making their mark in this sport have come together in St. Petersburg, Florida, to defend or reclaim championship titles.
The 2001 International Foundation of Disabled Sailing (IFDS) World Disabled Sailing Championships, co-hosted by St. Petersburg Yacht Club and Sailing Alternatives (a disabled sailing program based in Sarasota and St. Petersburg) is being held from October 24-31. The waters of Tampa Bay will provide the stage for 65 sailors representing nine countries to compete in the boats chosen for the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens: the three-person Sonar and the singlehanded 2.4 Metre.
Racing, set to begin October 26, follows two days of classification wherein the varied disabilities of each sailor is evaluated. The classification system, refined since the Paralympics, awards each Sonar team a rating designed to equalize physical abilities among the teams; 2.4 Metre sailors compete as equals without ratings.
Although attendance by foreign competitors has been affected by heightened national security in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks (cancelled flights and difficulty in obtaining entrance visas have been the most significant problems), several notable competitors will be on hand.
In the 13-boat 2.4 Metre event, Germany's 2000 2.4 Metre Paralympic Gold Medallist Heiko Kroger and Canada's 2000 Paralympian Danny McCoy will again face the USA's 2000 2.4 Metre Paralympic Bronze Medallist Tom Brown (Northeast Harbor, Maine).
The 16-boat Sonar event also boasts a strong turnout of 2000 Paralympians, several of whom are competing here with new crewmembers: Jens Kroker and Peter Reichl, the Sonar Silver Medallists from Germany, are joined by Dietmar Steigel; Brian MacDonald and Brian Mackie, Canada's Sonar Bronze Medallists, are joined by Paul Tingley; Israel's Dror Cohen and Arnon Efrati with Benny Vexler, and the United Kingdom' s Andy Cassell and Brian Harding are joined by Edward Suckling. John Twomey, Sean McGrath and Paul McCarthy, Ireland's Sonar Paralympic Team will also be on hand to re-acquaint themselves with the USA's Sonar Paralympians Paul Callahan (Palm Beach, Fla. and Providence, R.I.) and Keith Burhans (Irondequoit, N.Y.), who will compete with new crew Mike Hagmaier (Northfield, N.J.) aboard.