by Jan Harley
C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta.
Scott Whitman (Brick, N.J.) and Julia Dorsett (West Chester, Penn.), members of US Sailing Team Alphagraphics, are set to return to The Clagett Regatta as defending champions in the SKUD-18.
Organizers of North America’s premier event for sailors with disabilities – the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta – have scheduled the ninth annual edition for August 20-23, 2011, at Sail Newport, Rhode Island’s community sailing center.
For sailors with a disability, especially, the water is both a liberator and an equalizer where they can find an unmatched freedom in leaving a wheelchair behind as they sail away from the dock and reclaim responsibility for their personal safety from the hands of caregivers.
Significantly, the water provides a level playing field for sailors to challenge themselves both physically and mentally in a sport that is frequently described as chess on water. Making that kind of competitive opportunity a reality is what the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta is all about.
In its ninth consecutive year 'The Clagett' is widely respected as North America’s premier event for sailors with disabilities. It began as an event for a single class of boat with a stated mission of assisting sailors in realizing their potential on the water by providing them – through the one-day clinic that precedes racing – both the knowledge and tools to improve their skills, and the opportunity to test them in competition.
The event has expanded to include all three boats that have been chosen as the equipment of the Paralympic Regatta: the three-person Sonar, the two-person SKUD-18 and the singlehanded 2.4 Metre. And, since 2008, blind sailors are also included as they race J/22s with sighted guides for the Sail Newport Blind National Sailing Championship.
Not only has The Clagett formula paid off with medal success by event veterans at the 2008 Paralympic Games in China, it has, according to competitors, improved their quality of life as they apply what is achieved on the water to everyday situations. The pre-race clinic (Saturday, August 20), run by world champion sailors who share their expertise on everything from the racing rules to match racing techniques, is followed by on-the-water coaching during the three days of racing (Sunday-Tuesday, August 21-23).
The inclusion of able-bodied sailors in both the 2.4 Metre and Sonar fleets raises the competitive bar even higher. And for the casual observer there is little to distinguish the sailors with disabilities from the able-bodied competitors. Sailing is a sport that allows anyone with a disability to participate; so the next time you see a dock littered with wheelchairs and prosthetics, you can be sure someone is out harnessing the wind, getting wet and having a blast.
Clagett Regatta website