by Dana Paxton
The IFDS Worlds 2011 has resulted in US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics members Jen French and JP Creignou scoring a silver medal in the 21-boat Skud 18 fleet, behind GBR’s Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell.
IFDS Worlds 2011
Although the regatta experienced light-air conditions throughout the week, today’s 30-knot wind conditions ended the regatta when the race committee decided not to send the boats out. USSTAG performances in both 2.4mr and Sonar classes guaranteed USA of a berth in each class for the 2012 Paralympic Games. Racing took place July 3-8 at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in Weymouth, U.K., the site of the 2012 Paralympic Games.
French and Creignou sailed a very consistent regatta, finishing in either first or second for half of the 10-race series. Going into the final day, the British team had already clinched the win, so it was up to French and Creignou to maintain their second overall.
'We are pretty excited with the silver,' said Creignou. 'We started sailing together a year and a half ago, and we are also dealing with new equipment, a new mast and new sails. This is our second time in an international event, and we tried to gauge ourselves against the top sailors in the fleet. We weren’t sure what to expect. We hoped to do well, of course, but w didn’t know where we’d stack up.'
'At the beginning of the week we had trouble getting off the (start) line clean and we started in the back of the fleet,' Creignou continued. 'We were able to climb back and finish well, but as the week progressed we did a better job getting off the line. Overall our performance improved mostly in the starts so that allowed us to stay in the front and get closer to the top sailors.'
Although the duo has taken delivery of a new SKUD-18, they used their old boat for this regatta. 'We really got things going well for us in the last two days,' said Creignou of their second- and first-place finishes. 'The boat was tuned right and we felt good about the conditions. We have started to learn the venue, and all of the tips to sailing there. In the end it all clicked together for us.'
Scott Whitman (Brick, N.J.) and Julia Dorsett, who qualified the USA with their silver medal at the 2010 IFDS Worlds, finished in fourth.
Two USSTAG sailors -- Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) and 2008 Paralympic bronze medalist John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) competed. LeBlanc finished in fourth overall, just one point back from third. He began the week with a win in the first race, sailed consistently all week with five top five finishes. Ruf, who debuted his new 2.4mR at this regatta, struggled with some mechanical issues in race eight which resulted in his not making the race.
The DNS (did not start) score was a series throwout, and with a string of second place finishes he completed the week in fifth in the 46-boat fleet. LeBlanc’s finish qualified the USA for a 2.4mR berth at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
In the three-person Sonar keelboat, USSTAG teams faced tough competition in the 23-boat fleet. Paralympians Paul Callahan (Fla./Newport,R.I.) Tom Brown (Castine, Me.) and Brad Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) were the top American team, and finished the week with a series best day of 3,2 on the final day of racing to put them into fifth overall. The performance was good enough to qualify the USA for a Sonar berth at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Behind them in sixth place was the team of 2008 Paralympian Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.) and his crew Brad Kendell (Clearwater, Fla.) and Hugh Freund (Castine, Me.), while Bert Foster (Minneapolis, Minn.), Mike Hersey (Hyannis, Mass.) and David Burdette (Lutherville, Md.) finished in 15th.
'Overall, I’m very pleased with our results this week,' said USSTAG’s High Performance Director/Head Coach Kenneth Andreasen (Tampa, Fla.). 'Jen and JP went out and proved that they have what it takes to bring home medals.
Our Sonar and 2.4mR sailors had a strong week as well and accomplished our main goal: qualifying the country for the 2012 Games. We have six months until the Paralympic Team Trials in January, and I expect to see our sailors continuing to work hard and make the necessary improvements to reach their goals.'
IFDS Worlds website