by Jan Harley
Enabling sailors with disabilities to reach their personal competitive goals has always been central to the mission of the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta.
SKUD-18 Nick’s Karma is being raced by Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) and Akeel Shhaib (Springfield, Ill.) Photo: Thornton Cohen - C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic & Regatta
With the ninth edition underway at Sail Newport, Rhode Island’s community sailing center, that has never been more apparent, and for two competitors in particular, one a veteran, the other a first-timer, 'The Clagett' offers very different paths to their goals.
Nancy Jodoin (Natick, Mass.), has crewed for Sengil 'Inky' Inkiala (Watertown, Mass.) since 2008 when she first started sailing, a pairing that proved successful when they won the 2009 Sail Newport Blind Sailing National Championship which is run as part of The Clagett. And while she will be crewing for him again this year, it will be in a vastly different capacity. Jodoin, who has had vision problems since birth, will be acting as a sighted guide for Inky as a result of an operation last winter that restored her sight after 57 years of visual impairment.
'This is my opportunity to give back,' said Jodoin as she led Glenn Boivin (Saugus, Mass.) down the ramp for the first race of the 2011 series in Sail Newport’s fleet of J/22s, which are being raced with a crew of four: two sighted guides assisting two blind sailors. With her sight restored, Jodoin now takes on the role of guide while Boivin steps into her former role. Back on dry land after five races, Jodoin said her goal for the event includes 'getting through and not going in the water.'
Explaining that she was feeling overwhelmed with the intensity of the starting line, and of seeing the water coming over the edge of the boat when it was heeled over, she remarked that there was a lot to do as the sighted guide including managing the traveler, main and backstay, all of which was new to her.
While dealing with all those new responsibilities Jodoin was also profoundly moved by the sight of her fellow competitors as they prepared to go out sailing. She had never known of the overturned wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs left behind on the docks, and thinks it important to be able to 'color in the details' for her visually impaired teammates. A registered nurse and care coordinator at Long Term Solutions in Natick, Jodoin’s night blindness was not improved by the surgery, and, in fact, her sighted status may not be permanent as she has already experienced some decline in her vision. For now, however, Jodoin is relishing every minute in her new role.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Aqeel Shhaib (Springfield, Ill.), a U.S. Army combat veteran who was wounded in December of 2009. Still undergoing rehabilitation for serious injuries to his leg and jaw, he participated in the third annual U.S. Olympic Committee Paralympic Military Sports Camp that was held this past July at Naval Station Newport. It was there that the wounded warrior, a former runner who was on crutches at the time, had his first-ever experience in a sailboat with none other than Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.), who is not only head coach for
The Clagett but also the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Paralympic Coach.
Within minutes of getting on the boat, Shhaib, a structural engineer who is pursuing a master’s degree in architecture, understood the mechanics of what to do to make the boat perform. 'I have not done anything physical or athletic [since the injury], and I am trying to do something I’ve never done. So far I love it,' he said dockside after the first day of racing.
Crewing for experienced sailor Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) in a SKUD-18, he explained that his face hit the water a couple of times during racing today which had him screaming and howling. 'It was a million dollar moment! The main line is the life of the boat and I held that in my hand.' After a combined 10 hours of sailing, Shhaib has already met his goal for the regatta -- to have fun. And it also seems certain that Shhaib will soon add the language of sailing to the 11 he already speaks fluently.
The first day of racing, which was held in puffy conditions, with gusts up to 20 knots, saw five races completed by the blind sailors who are competing for the 2011 Sail Newport Blind Sailing National Championship.
They will complete their series tomorrow, Monday, August 22, while the competitors in the Paralympic classes – 2.4 Metre, SKUD-18 and Sonar – got in four races today and continue racing through Tuesday, August 23.
In the seven-boat J/22 fleet, the Texas team skippered by Karen Penrose (Shore Acres) and James O’Laughlin (Clear Lake) with David Atkinson and Scott Tuma (both Shore Acres), holds a one-point lead over 2009 Blind Sailing World Champion Jason Wallenstein and Bruce Howell (Needham, Mass.) with world champion sighted guides Lisa O’Connor Dalton (Hull, Mass.) and Peter Frisch (Swampscott, Mass.). Standing third is Sengil 'Inky' Inkiala (Watertown, Mass.), Glenn Boivin (Saugus, Mass.) with Nancy Jodoin (Natick, Mass.) and Ken Legler (Reading, Mass.)
The 2.4 Metre class has the largest contingent racing with 12 boats and is led by Mark Leblanc (New Orleans, La.). Leblanc, fresh from a fourth-place finish at the IFDS World Championships in Weymouth, England, has five points after four races. 2010 Clagett champion Charles Rosenfield (Woodstock, Conn.) is second overall with eight points, and Peter Wood (Ottawa, CAN), is third with 11 points. In the SKUD-18s, Scott Whitman (Brick, N.J.) and Brooke Thomson (Newport Beach, Calif.) won all four races and lead the standings with four points, followed by Ken Kelly (Victoria, B.C. CAN) and Brenda Hopkin (Fairmont Hot Springs, CAN) with eight points and Sarah Everhart Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) and Aqeel Shhaib (Springfield, Ill.) with 14.
In the Sonar class, Paul Callahan (Newport, R.I. /Cape Coral, Fla.), Tom Brown (Castine, Maine) and Brad Johnson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) lead with five points. Albert Foster (Wayzata, Minn.), Jim Thweatt (Sacramento, Calif.) and David Burdette (Lutherville, Md.) are second with nine points, followed by Andrew Fisher (Greenwich, Conn.), 2008 SKUD-18 Paralympic Gold Medalist Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) and Christopher Murphy.
As is tradition at this event, the clinic on Saturday, August 20, led by internationally-ranked sailors got the competitors ready for action on the water with classroom work followed by on-the-water coaching. For members of the race management team the organizer’s held their first-ever safety clinic that included a basic first aid briefing, and dealt with topics such as allergic reactions, hypothermia and brittle bones – all issues particularly relevant to the sailors with disabilities. George Brown (Fairfax, Va.), a 30-year member of the City of Fairfax Fire Department led the safety clinic with the assistance of Carl Lessard (Boston, Mass.) from Chartis. The safety clinic also included a dockside demonstration of back boards, as well as when and how to get a paralympic or quadriplegic competitor out of the water.
RESULTS: C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Regatta 2011Division: 2.4mR(12 boats)PosSailSkipperCrew1234Total
1USA 137Mark Leblanc21115.00
2USA 142Charles Rosenfield12238.00
3CAN 14Peter Wood333211.00
4USA 172Julia Dorsett444416.00
5USA 118Tim Ripley856524.00
6CAN 88Aaron Wong-Sing66513/DNS30.00
7CAN 12Christine Lavallee588930.00
8USA 37Brian Skeels779730.00
9CAN 18Audrey Kobayashi9971035.00
10USA 39Nick Bryan-Brown101010636.00
11USA 121Joseph Hill13/DNF13/DNS13/DNS847.00
12USA 128Donna DeMarest111113/DNS13/DNS48.00
Division: Skud 18 (3 boats) PosSailSkipperCrew1234Total
1USA 0Scott WhitmanBrook Thomson11114.00
2USA 22Sarah Everhart SkeelsAqeel Shhaib22228.00
3USA 3Ken KellyBrenda Hopkin334/DNF4/DNS14.00
Division: Sonar (5 boats) PosSailSkipperCrew1234Total
1450Paul CallahanTom Brown/Bradley Johnson11215.00
2757Albert FosterJim Thweatt/David Burdette22329.00
3810Andrew FisherChristopher Murphy/Maureen McKinnon-Tucker331310.00
4493Charlie CrouteauJohanne Lalonde/James Demsey444416.00
5513Richard RamosDuncan Gillespie/Steve Jewett/Kitty Mears555520.00
Division: J22(7 boats) PosSailBoatSkipper/Crew12345Total
1Team 5Karen Penrose/James O'Laughlin/David Atkinson/Scott Tuma212218.00
2Team 2Jason Wallenstein/Bruce Howell/Lisa Dalton/Peter Frisch121149.00
3Team 1Sengil Inkiala/Glenn Boivin/Nancy Jodoin/Ken Legler4333316.00
4Team 4Duane Farrar/Sol Marini/Bob Costello/Debbie Keating3544218.00
5Team 6Mitsuhiro Iwamato/Phillip Kum/Al Spector/Danette Davis7457528.00
6Team 3Matt Chao/Nina Kagan/Bill Rapp/Mary McKinnon5765730.00
7Team 7Walter Raineri/Jim Stevens/Jim Boyd/Chuck Anastaysa/Matt Dunbar6676631.00
Additional information can be found online at www.clagettregatta.org
About the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic & Regatta: The ninth annual edition is scheduled for August 20-23, 2011, at Sail Newport, Rhode Island’s community sailing center. 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. The C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta honors the late Tom Clagett (1916-2001), a U.S. Navy World War II veteran who learned to sail on the Chesapeake Bay. As a youngster he suffered temporary paralysis as the result of a bout of meningitis; it was an experience that left him with a deep respect for the accomplishments of people with disabilities, especially athletes. Sponsors of the C. Thomas Clagett Memorial Clinic & Regatta are: Fiduciary Trust International, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Chartis, Innovative Construction and Roger King Fine Art.