Halifax, Nova Scotia - The IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship is closing in on a dramatic conclusion as teams from around the world race to win the first country berths awarded for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The United States will have a chance to qualify in all three classes (2.4mR, SKUD-18 and Sonar) during the final day of racing on Sunday, August 24. US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider Paralympic-class athletes have been training all year for this moment, and tomorrow will be the decisive day. There was plenty of action on the penultimate Day five of racing, as Halifax demonstrated once again why as a sailing venue it is so difficult to master, even for the world-class sailors gathered at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron this week.
The American 2.4mR contingent had a stellar day, recording six single-digit individual race scores in the 49-boat fleet. Paralympic medalist and Open World Champion John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wisc.) took a fourth in the final race to end the day in seventh overall. To qualify at this event for Rio 2016, the US needs to be one of the top eight countries in this fleet, so Ruf remains in position to qualify the country. Ted Green (Newport, R.I.) recorded a fourth place finish, and The US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider's Daniel Evans (Miami, Fla.) notched a pair of sixth place scores to jump up the standings.
In the SKUD-18, Ryan Porteous (San Diego, Calif.) and Cindy Walker (Portsmouth, R.I.) stayed in single-digits with a seven-nine-six scoreline today, which increased their lead over the Dutch team in sixth overall. Only five countries will qualify at this regatta for Rio 2016 in the SKUD-18, and Team Porteous-Walker will look to defend their seven-point advantage tomorrow. Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) and Gerry Tiernan (Falmouth, Maine) had their best day of the event with finishes of eight-six-five showing that they are making steady gains this week.
'Today was one of those tactical days where it felt like your head was exploding,' said Everhart-Skeels. 'Sometimes you had to sail through 20-degree shifts because you knew they wouldn't last. It's a hard pace to sail because it's so shifty, and another side effect of that is the extended wait time as [the race committee] continues to re-set courses. It's hard to keep your focus.'
In the Sonar, the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider will have a tough fight on its hands during the final day of racing. The top-ranked American team of Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Reading, Mass.) and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine) fell from sixth to eighth overall, and is now on the outside looking in as countries attempt to qualify for Rio 2016. Sailing on the course positioned the farthest outside of Halifax harbor, the Sonar fleet endured a continuous battle for supremacy between a northerly offshore breeze and the prevailing southerly sea breeze.
This led to wild wind shifts during both races that did not treat the Americans kindly. Andrew Fisher (Greenwich, Ct.), Mike Hersey (Hyannis, Mass.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) stand in 11th, and said it was one of the hardest days of sailing they could remember. 'It was a very difficult tactical day, with both the huge shifts and the up-and-down pressure,' said bowman Johnson. 'This is one of the most challenging places we've sailed.' Main trimmer Hersey noted that 'lanes evaporated in an instant, and it made good teamwork pretty important.'
Sunday will be the final day of racing. By tomorrow evening World Champions will be crowned, and the Paralympic sailing community will have a clearer picture of what the Rio 2016 regatta will look like.
Rio 2016 Nation Qualification System Notes: The 2014 IFDS World Championship serves as the first nation qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. A percentage of berths for Rio 2016 will be allocated based on final results at this event. The top 8 nations will qualify for The Games in the 2.4mR class, the top 5 nations in the SKUD-18 class, and the top 7 nations in the Sonar class. More information
Racing at the 2014 IFDS Worlds will take place in Halifax from Tuesday, August 19, to Sunday, August 24.
Top US Results: 2014 IFDS World Championships, Day five
• 7th, John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wisc.)
• 14th, Ted Green (Newport, R.I.)
• 16th, Daniel Evans (Miami, Fla.)
• 5th, Ryan Porteous (San Diego, Calif.) and Cindy Walker (Portsmouth, R.I.)
• 7th, Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) and Gerry Tiernan (Falmouth, Maine)
• 8th, Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Reading, Mass.) and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine)
• 11th, Andrew Fisher (Greenwich, Ct.), Mike Hersey (Hyannis, Mass.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) Event website