by Jan Harley
C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta was based from Sail Newport, Rhode Island’s community sailing center. The regatta has now concluded after three days of racing on Narragansett Bay.
(Left to right) the team of Brad Johnson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), Tom Brown (Castine, Maine) and Paul Callahan (Newport, R.I./ /Cape Coral, Fla.) have won the Sonar class at The 2011 Clagett
The standings leaders in the three Paralympic classes – the three-person Sonar, the two-person SKUD-18, and the singlehanded 2.4 Metre – were confirmed as winners once a dying north-westerly breeze gave way to a southerly that allowed three races to be held for the completion of the series.
In the Sonar class, three teams, each with hopes of representing the U.S.A. at the 2012 Paralympic Games, topped the five-boat class. Paul Callahan (Newport, R.I. /Cape Coral, Fla.), Tom Brown (Castine, Maine) and Brad Johnson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), each of whom has been to the Paralympics – although never together as a team – led the Sonar fleet from day one and after 11 races won the championship with 10 points.
'This event [The Clagett] helps us continue the momentum from England, while working on specific areas of our sailing that we want to improve,' said Callahan as he explained that the trio was the top-finishing American team in the Sonar class at the IFDS Worlds in England earlier this summer. 'The Clagett fit perfectly into our training program,' he added. Callahan represented the U.S.A. in the Sonar at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, and Brown won a bronze medal, in the 2.4 Metre class, at those same games. Johnson also won a bronze medal – earned at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens as crew on a Sonar.
Finishing second were Andrew Fisher (Greenwich, Conn.), 2008 SKUD-18 Paralympic Gold Medalist Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) and Christopher Murphy (Charleston, S.C.) with 24 points, followed three points back by Albert Foster (Wayzata, Minn.), Jim Thweatt (Sacramento, Calif.) and David Burdette (Lutherville, Md.). Fourth overall with 37 points were Charlie Croteau (Worcester, Mass.), James Demsey (Salem, Mass.) and Johanne Lalonde (Ottawa, CAN); Richard Ramos (Medford, Mass.), Duncan Gillespie (Charlestown, Mass.), Kitty Mears (Brighton, Mass.) and Steve Jewett (Winthrop, Mass.) were fifth with 49 points.
Croteau who was making his third appearance in The Clagett and deemed it the 'best one yet.' While joking that when 'Coach Betsy [Alison] tells you to do something, you do it or die,' he explained with sincerity that he felt he had learned more and performed better because of the clinic and coaching. 'I’ll be back next year,' added Croteau.
In the SKUD-18s, Scott Whitman (Brick, N.J.) and Brooke Thomson (Newport Beach, Calif.) won the final three races of the series today to win their class with 10 points. Sarah Everhart Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) and wounded warrior Aqeel Shhaib (Urbana, Ill.) finished in second place with 21 points, followed by Ken Kelly (Victoria, B.C. CAN) and Brenda Hopkin (Fairmont Hot Springs, CAN) with 28 points.
Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans) has won the 2.4 Metre class at the ninth annual C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic & Regatta 2011
Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) is another Clagett competitor with hopes of representing the U.S.A. at the Paralympic Games, having finished just off the podium (in fourth) at the recent IFDS World Championships in England where he was the top-American in the class. Leading the 12-boat 2.4 Metre fleet from day one of The Clagett, LeBlanc was able to prevent 2010 Clagett champion Charles Rosenfield (Woodstock, Conn.) from successfully defending his title in spite of Rosenfield winning two races on the final day of the series. LeBlanc ended the 10-race series with 11 points to Rosenfield’s 17. Third overall was Peter Wood (Ottawa, CAN) with 27 points, followed by Julia Dorsett (West Chester, Penn.) and Tim Ripley (Randolph, N.J.), with 34 and 48 points, respectively.
'The main thing this year was that the fleet was not as spread out as far as skill level,' said Craig Guthrie (Halifax, Nova Scotia) of the 2.4 Metre sailors. Guthrie, the 2008 Canadian Paralympic Coach, was back at The Clagett to work with the class for his second consecutive year. 'We had lead changes at the top end, in the middle and at the back end. And it was fully competitive with 10-11 boats on the line. Everybody got better at their starts. The pure essence of a clinic is to recognize achievement and skill acquisition over a three-to-four day period -- and everybody nailed it. They were getting better at the starts, tactics were getting better, their boat-handling, sail-trim, everything was on a continuous steep learning curve all week. It was great.'
Guthrie went on to explain that the 2.4 is a disabled boat, but is sailed at an integrated level on the world championship level as well as local fleet level 'which is what makes it a perfect boat for sailors with disabilities because they can get into an integrated environment which is the ultimate for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are only disabled when they can’t do something.'