US Disabled Sailing Championships preview

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Perhaps, no other US Sailing National Championship exhibits more spirit and courage than the U.S. Disabled Sailing Championships. The 2012 edition of this unique event will be hosted by the Southwestern Yacht Club in San Diego, California - for three days of racing beginning this Friday through Sunday, October 26th-28th. Sailors will compete in the area of North San Diego Bay in single-, double-, and triplehanded championship fleets.

The event is open to any sailor with a physical disability. Participants have included quadriplegics, paraplegics and amputees, as well as individuals with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, polio and ALS.

Many of this year’s participants have Paralympic ambitions. Several past participants of this championship have gone on to compete in the Paralympic Games, including 2008 Paralympic Gold Medalist, the late Nick Scandone. The U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship has been hosted by different sailing organizations around the country to expand awareness of disabled sailing and encourage disabled individuals to take up the sport.

Competition in the singlehanded division for the Judd Goldman Trophy will be sailed in the 2.4 mR. Each sailor in this division must have a disability. Charles Rosenfield (Woodstock, Conn.) has his sights set on a third US Disabled Singlehanded Championship. Rosenfield won in 2011 and 2009.

Sailors in the doublehanded division will race in the Martin 16 for the Chandler Hovey Trophy. Both sailors must have a disability to compete. The team of Bob E. Jones (Issaquah, Wash.) and Ken Kelly (Victoria, B.C.) is looking for their first US Disabled Sailing Championship. They are former Canadian Martin 16 National Champions.

The triplehanded fleet will sail in the Capri 22 for the Gene Hinkel Trophy. All three sailors must have a disability to compete. 2012 Paralympic silver medalist (two-person keelboat) Jennifer French (St. Petersburg, Fla.) is looking for her first US Disabled Triplehanded Championship. She won the Doublehanded Championship in 2009. French is a seven-time winner of the Milan-Gruson Award for the top disabled female skipper. This week, French and Canadian Sailing Team member Brenda Hopkins (Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C.) will be crewing for Sarah Everhart Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.).

As a three-time US Disabled Triplehanded Champion, Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.) is no stranger to this event. Doerr will be sailing with Gerard Tiernan (Falmouth, Maine) and Michael Ross (Oceanside, Calif.) this week. Doerr is a 2007 Disabled World Champion and a 2008 Paralympian in the Sonar.

There will be three developmental fleets, including the Martin 16 (doublehanded), Access Liberty (singlehanded), and Access 303 (doublehanded). These developmental fleets will be running in tandem with the championship fleets. The purpose of these fleets is to provide returning or new sailors an opportunity to race and work on tactical skills and boathandling.

Since the 1980s, US Sailing has actively supported sailboat racing among physically challenged sailors. The inaugural championship, then called the Independence Cup, took place in 1990 and for many years held in conjunction with the North American Challenge Cup by the Chicago Yacht Club. Beginning in 2007, US Sailing encouraged clubs and venues around the country to host the championship. The success in moving the event around the USA has provided an impetus for host venues to create other disabled sailing events like the annual Robie Pierce regatta held on Long Island Sound.

US Disabled Championship website