Americans hold SKUD fleet lead in Qingdao

Skud 18’s against the backdrop of downtown Qingdao
The US team of Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker increased their overall lead after today's single SKUD18 race at the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition. This is the first Paralympic Games for Scandone, who was named the 2005 US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and McKinnon-Tucker is the first woman to represent the United States in sailing at the Paralympic Games.

Today competitors waited around all morning and finally made it onto the water and waited some more. Although sea breezes were a wafty 4-6 knots, testing the mental tenacity of sailors, rather than the physical, the racing was slow, but thrilling.

The Great Britain crew got their noses in front early to lead Australia, Canada, USA and Malaysia around the first mark. Those same came five abreast from midway down the run home to the finish line, each boat stealing air from the other's spinnakers

A game of tactics played out at the end. Britain was windward most boat, so stayed out of trouble. Australia put in a gybe towards the shore; all except USA immediately followed, but then even they followed.

As the most leeward boat, Australia was getting the worst of the deal, so gybed away again. It cost Fitzgibbon dearly, but there was nothing else he could do as first Britain crossed, then the USA and Canada, who beat him and Cox by a whisker.

'I spotted a line of breeze on the left-hand side of the course immediately off the start and although we didn’t start well that gave us a massive lift, got us straight back into the race and we rounded the first mark in first. It was another very tricky race but we’re looking forward to the rest of the regatta,' explained Birrell.

The top three overall places have not changed. American’s Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker second today was enough for them to retain the overall lead, five points ahead of Dan Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox (AUS). A further point away are John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit (CAN), with the British crew taking over fourth place, 10 points behind the Canadians.

'It was a different kind of competition because of the almost no-wind situation. The Canadian boat finished only two millimetres in front of us,' Fitzgibbon said. The Canadian skipper, McRoberts said: 'There was only a bowsprit in it. The conditions were difficult.'

On coming ashore, Scandone commented: 'Today was light - in fact almost too light for racing, but we fortunately ended up close to the top.'

Of continuing in first place overall, the American said: 'We need to stay consistent and have solid finishes in the rest of our races. The rest will take care of itself - it has so far!' The Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker combination won the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials and US SAILING's 2008 Rolex Miami OCR by wide margins and it looks like they will do the same in Qingdao. They finished second at the 2007 IFDS Sailing World Championship/Rochester, New York

Race Officials now plan to run three races instead of two tomorrow, starting at 12:00, an hour earlier than originally planned.

2P KEELBOAT (SKUD18) AFTER 6 RACES Place Name Pos NPCCodePoints per Race TotalPtsNet1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Pts 1 SCANDONE Nick McKINNON TUCKER Maureen USA 2 1 1 1 (3) 210 7 2 FITZGIBBON DanielCOX Rachal AUS (4) 2 2 2 2 416 12 3 McROBERTS John Scott LOUTTIT Stacie CAN (3) 3 3 3 1 3 16 13 4 BIRRELL Niki RICKHAM Alexandra SCGBR 5 5 (8) 8 4 1 31 23 5 JIA HailiangYANG XiujuanCHN 1 4 (7) 7 5 6 30 23 6 FRESK Carl-Gustaf JACOBSSON NILEN Birgitta SWE 6 (9) 4 4 7 8 38 29 7 LOKE Sin YingMATRIN Al Mustakim MAS 10 6 (12) DSQ 5 6 5 44 32 8 TAN Wei Qiang JovinLIM Kok Liang DesireeSIN 7 7 5 6 (8) 7 40 32 9 AMARAL Bento SILVANO Luisa POR 8 8 6 (9) 9 9 49 40 10 KELEHAN Amy TWOMEY John IRL 9 (10) 9 10 10 10 58 48 11 SOLLIQUE PedroPINPIN CherryPHI (11) 11 10 11 11 11 65 54