Team USA Top Six In All Para Classes
Day 1 Report
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Team USA scored solid results on the first day of racing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic sailing competition, with all three American boats in a top-six position in their fleets. The eighty international competitors were treated to bright sunshine, flat water and a moderate breeze varying from 5-12 knots for most of the day.
In the 2.4mR, Dee Smith (Annapolis, Md.) finished 7th in the first race, before winning the second. Smith currently sits in 3rd overall. "In the first race, I didnt get off the line very well, and I got 'pinged' a couple times, with too many tacks on the first beat," said the experienced professional sailor, who is making his first Paralympic Games appearance. "The second race was very clean. I won the start, and it was a two-way battle with [London 2012 gold medalist] Helena [Lucas] from Great Britain for the next couple of legs."
When asked by the press onshore if he thought he was a medal contender in Rio, Smith said that had yet to be determined. "I have a shot. We'll see by wednesday or Thursday. That's when we'll know if I'm really in it or not. I just have to sail more like my second race [today] than my first." Smith also noted that he has an unusual amount of competitive experience at this venue for a non-local. "I've been sailing here for more than 23 years," said Smith. "I did a couple of Cape Town to Rio races and a Volvo [Ocean Race stop] here, so I feel comfortable in Rio and I like it."
Pictured: Porteous and McKinnon, SKUD-18 class. Photo: Richard Langdon / World Sailing
The American Sonar team of Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Brad Kendell (Tampa, Fla.) and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine) also got off to a strong start. Finishes of 7, 3 put them in 6th overall, but only one point from 2nd. The veteran trio experienced a minor setback in Race Two when they caught the unfavorable attention of race officials. "We were flagged by the jury for a violation about 30 yards from the finish line, had to spin, and [were passed] by the (regatta-leading) Aussies," said Freund. "Luckily, we had a good lead on the rest of the fleet at that stage, and only lost one boat. Our speed was great, and we were definitely set up well all day. There was some current, but today's racing was definitely about pressure. Getting to the breeze was definitely the most important factor."
A scoreline of 6,7 on the day has the American SKUD-18 of Ryan Porteous (San Diego, Calif.) and Beijing 2008 gold medalist Maureen McKinnon (Marblehead, Mass.) in 6th overall. "Our speed was good, but we just made a few mistakes and some tactical errors," said McKinnon. "We definitely have the speed, though." Porteous said it was exciting to experience Paralympic racing for the first time. "I had some jitters, but once you start racing you don't think about it," said the serene Californian.
Racing will continue on Tuesday, September 13, at the Rio 2016 Paralympic sailing competition. Medals are scheduled to be awarded in all three classes on Saturday, September 17. More information can be found below.