Beijing Paralympic bronze medallist John Ruf of the USA clinched the 2.4 mR World Championship a day early on Thursday, securing the title in Ft Myers, Florida with a race to spare.
(USA), a member of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics' (USSTAG), won the 44-boat, open fleet, beating 2008 Paralympic gold medallist Paul Tingley
(CAN) and 2009 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Champion Thierry Schmitter
(NED). Schmitter also won the 2009 2.4 mR National Championship last week at the same venue. The 2.4 mR is the equipment used for the Paralympic Single-Person Keelboat event, but the class World Championship is open to both able-bodied and disabled sailors.
Held at the Edison Sailing Center on Caloosahatchee River in Ft Myers, Florida, the 2009 2.4 mR World Championship includes four days of competitive racing. USA's Carl Horrocks
also clinched silver today, while the rest of the competitors have one more race tomorrow.
"I'm in shock. I've never won a World Championship," said Ruf. "It's pretty humbling, knowing all those people on the trophy. It's pretty impressive company to be in."
Ruf won three out of 10 races this week, and after dropping his two lowest scores - an eighth and 11th - Ruf's worst finish was only fourth. He said he never once looked at the results board throughout the week, so he didn't realize he mathematically had a chance of winning gold today. "I focused on taking one race at a time," he said.
Ruf said the fleet saw a "little bit of everything" in terms of conditions, but he said he enjoyed racing most when they had heavy air. Today, the wind was in his favour, blowing 15-20 knots. "I was able to change it up when I needed to," he added. "It's incredible to have a set of sails that gives you that kind of range - the ability to do well in the light stuff and just as well as in the heavy."
"I think I set up the boat well and had good speed," said Ruf. "It's always fun to have some speed in your back pocket - and it came in handy today, for sure."
"John's exceptional speed and tenacity on the race course gave him an edge that was impossible to beat," said his USSTAG's Paralympic coach, Betsy Alison
(USA). "He sailed an incredibly consistent tactical series with confidence to take top honours against the best in the world. He is a deserving World Champion and a perfect example of what the USSTAG is all about."
"Winning a World Championship is hard to do. And winning a medal at the Games is also hard. John Ruf is now living in the rarified air of having done both," said Olympic Sailing Programme Chairman Dean Brenner (USA). "He's a great champion and we're proud of his accomplishments."
The last American to win the 2.4 mR World Championship was Nick Scandone in 2005. The US SAILING Rolex Yachtsman of the Year also won a gold medal in the SKUD18 class with Maureen McKinnon-Tucker at the 2008 Paralympic Games.
Other USSTAG members competing at the World Championship are Mark LeBlanc
and 2004 Paralympic bronze medallist in the Sonar Roger Cleworth
For complete results of the 2009 2.4 mR World Championship, please visit the event website at http://24mrworlds09.edisonsailingcenter.org