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29 May 2008, 10:49 am
Rye Hosts US Disabled Sailing Championship
The Sonar fleet at the IFDS Qingdao International Regatta
The Sonar fleet at the recent IFDS Qingdao International Regatta

US Disabled Sailing Championship 2008
Rye, New York, USA

World class sailors are lining up to compete in this year's US Disabled Sailing Championship, hosted on Long Island Sound from 6-9 June.
They are successful surgeons and coaches, professors and investment bankers, entrepreneurs and parents. They are nationally and internationally recognized as outstanding athletes. And: they are physically disabled. Dozens of sailors from the United States and Canada will gather on the first weekend in June to compete for US SAILING's Chandler Hovey trophy and the Judd Goldman trophy at a four-day event hosted in Rye, N.Y., by the American Yacht Club (AYC) and neighbouring Larchmont Yacht Club (LYC). It is the only national sailing championship for disabled sailors. Managed by US SAILING, the sport's national governing body, the challenge is open to any sailor with a physical disability. Past events have included quadriplegics, paraplegics and amputees, as well as individuals with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, polio and ALS. Several of the participants will go on to compete in the Paralympic Games in China this coming September.

"These athletes defy the public image of disabled people living in a deep depression and waiting for their next disability check", says Hugh ELLIOTT, chief judge for the event and himself a former Paralympic contender. "They have overcome enormous challenges, and they are better people for it."

Racing sailboats is one of the only sports where disabled and able-bodied athletes can compete as equals. In many cases, adaptive aids are used and modifications made to equipment on board the boats to minimize disability and maximize ability. AYC's Regatta Chair Bill SANDBERG says the competitors are outstanding sailors who "just happen to have a disability."

Competition will be held in three classes of boats: 2.4mR (one person); Sonar (three person); and Ideal 18 (two person). In order to level the playing field in the Sonar class, the athletes are rated by their disability - someone with a 7 rating being the most able-bodied - and the numbers are then added up to a team rating. Each team must stay below a certain number of points in order to qualify.

Mark LEBLANC from New Orleans will attempt to defend last year's title in the 2.4mR class against a formidable field of contenders, including former Paralympian Bruce MILLAR and Paul TINGLEY, who will go on to represent Canada at the Paralympic Games this September.

The competition in the Sonar class is expected to be fierce, as US Paralympic team members Rick DOERR, Tim ANGLE and Bill DONOHUE will face off against last year's winners Albert FOSTER, David BURDETTE and Jim THWEATT, as well as former Paralympic contenders Paul CALLAHAN, Roger CLEWORTH and Tom BROWN. The Canadian team of Danny MCCOY (replacing an injured Ken KELLY), Don TERLSON and Marc SHAW has also qualified for the Paralympic Games.

The Ideal 18 class, initially intended as an entry-level competition, has attracted some unexpected buzz as the Canadian Paralympic team of John MCROBERTS and Stacie LOUTTIT, who usually sail in the SKUD18 class, are going to compete for the title against world-class sailors such as last year's winner in the Freedom 20 class, Jean-Paul CREIGNOU. Sarah SKEELS and Bob JONES - a SKUD18 team that placed fourth at the US Trials - are each going to skipper their own boat. West Coast sailor Mike STRAHLE, Trapseat Hobie champion, will switch to a monohull to compete in the Championship.

US Disabled Sailing Championship - www.ussailing.org/championships/adult/usic
Paralympic Games microsite - www.sailing.org/paralympics
Marlieke Eaton
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