Event: Two-Person Keelboat
Racing Dates: 8-13 September
This is the first Paralympic outing for the SKUD18, which was co-designed by Australians Chris MITCHELL and Julian BETHWAITE and modelled on the latter's successful Olympic class 49er skiff - the SKUD is the "go fast" boat of the Paralympic Games and features a spinnaker.
For medal favourites, one can't go past Maureen MCKINNON TUCKER and Nick SCANDONE (USA).
The Americans have pulled of some off some big wins, including silver from last year's IFDS Worlds, gold medal wins in other international events and outstanding victories in nearly every race of their trials for the Beijing Games. They also have the advantage of the coaching services of world-renowned match racer Betsy ALISON (USA).
SCANDONE, on being diagnosed with Lou Gehrie's disease in 2007, took up sailing the 2.4 Metre single-person class and put in some sterling performances, winning the 2005 US Yachtsman of the Year award after victory at the 2004 2.4 Metre Worlds in an able-bodied and disabled fleet of 88 sailors.
In the case of MCKINNON TUCKER, she competitively sailed J/24 keelboats prior to a fall from a seawall in the last decade, resulting in paraplegia. It did not stop her from sailing, and after casting around for a suitable boat, she was invited to sail in the Sonar class, but just missed selection for Athens.
Alexandra RICKHAM and Niki BIRRELL's (GBR) gold medal performance at the 2008 IFDS Qingdao International Regatta puts them in the box seat as major threats to the Americans.
Waiting in the wings of the the competing crews are Daniel FITZGIBBON and Rachel COX (AUS), who are on the rise. The former was a promising 420 dinghy sailor when a fall from a sailing dock rendered him a quadriplegic.
About the SKUD18
The SKUD 18 is a lead-assisted skiff. With a tube-launched asymmetrical spinnaker and a modern high performance stayed rig, the boat is an exciting addition to World and Paralympic Competition. Able-bodied and disabled athletes alike can enjoy the platform - and more severely disabled sailors will welcome the ability to compete on an equitable level.
Selected in 2005 as the boat for two-person Paralympic competition in Beijing, the SKUD18 is a strict one design class. Sailors are seated on the centerline for Paralympic events, but the boat can be sailed with or without either of the seats and configured to suit different sailors' needs.
Australia - Daniel FITZGIBBON and Rachel COX
Canada - Stacie LOUTTIT and John Scott MCROBERTS
China - Xiujuan YANG and Hailiang JIA
Great Britain - Alexandra RICKHAM and Niki BIRRELL
Ireland - Amy KELEHAN and John TWOMEY
Malaysia - Sin Ying LOKE and Al Mustakim MATRIN
Philippines - Cherry PINPIN and Pedro SOLLIQUE
Portugal - Luisa SILVANO and Bento AMARAL
Singapore - Kok Liang Desiree LIM and Wei Qiang Jovin TAN
Sweden - Birgitta JACOBSSON NILEN and Carl-Gustaf FRESK
USA - Maureen MCKINNON TUCKER and Nick SCANDONE
ISAF Paralympic Games microsite - www.sailing.org/paralympics