National sailing teams from around the world have gathered at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron in Halifax, Nova Scotia for the 2014 IFDS World Championships, the premier annual event for Paralympic sailing classes. For the second year in a row, the American contingent is the largest at the event with 17 sailors, and US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider athletes and coaches are ready to put a year's worth of training and effort to the test.
Competing at this event will be all three Paralympic keelboats: the one-person 2.4mR, the two-person SKUD-18, and the three-person Sonar. 'The US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider is aiming for peak performance at the IFDS Worlds in Halifax this week,' said Josh Adams, Managing Director of US Olympic Sailing. 'In a field made up of the best Paralympic sailors in the world, our team looks forward to the racing challenge and to seeing how much progress we've made in our training.'
Betsy Alison, five-time US Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and the team's Paralympic coach, notes that the support system for US sailors at this event has never been better. 'To have the personnel we have here in Halifax is really advantageous for our athletes. [US Olympic and Paralympic Team Boatwright] Donnie Brennan is a huge asset, and he is working to help us avoid any technical glitches this week. We also have a skilled medical and training staff here. This allows the sailors to have peace of mind about their health and their equipment, so they can focus on racing.'
In the 2.4mR class, the US is fielding an experienced and talented group. US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider athletes Daniel Evans (Miami, Fla.) and Charlie Rosenfield (Woodstock, Ct.) will be racing this week in the 48-boat fleet, joined by several other US competitors. Evans finished eighth at last week's Pre-Worlds tune-up event, followed closely by 2.4mR newcomer Ted Green (Newport, R.I.) who ended up in ninth overall. 'I feel like we have a well-rounded program right now,' said Evans, when asked about his strengths on the racecourse. 'There are still a few faster boats out there. My focus this week will be on boat speed and starting.' Also racing this week is 2008 Paralympic Bronze Medalist and 2009 Open World Champion John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wisc.), who has sailed sparingly since finishing second at the 2012 Paralympic Trials in Miami, Florida. When asked about whether he is planning on making a run for the podium at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Ruf said it was 'too early to tell.' With a smile, the accomplished athlete noted that his goal for this event is 'just to finish.' US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider 2.4mR Coach Marko Dahlberg coached Ruf to both his 2008 medal and 2009 world title, and the 2014 IFDS Worlds reunites the pair.
In the two-person SKUD-18 class, both US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider boats will be strong contenders for the podium. After finishing fourth in their first IFDS Worlds last year, Ryan Porteous (San Diego, Calif.) and Cindy Walker (Portsmouth, R.I.) return to the event with twice the experience and faster equipment. 'We have a new boat, and we still have to figure out how to optimize it,' said Porteous. 'We are a lot closer to the best teams now than we were last year. We just finished fourth at the North Americans [Worlds tune-up event], where we were always around the leaders. It's really exciting.' Joining Porteous and Walker are the team of Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) and Gerry Tiernan (Falmouth, Maine). Everhart-Skeels and Tiernan have also come to Halifax with a new boat, and have logged extensive training time this Spring and Summer in Newport, Rhode Island.
Both US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider Sonars will be in Halifax, with each team having put in significant sailing time at the Worlds venue. Sonar world champion Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.) will sail with Tim Angle (Reading, Mass.) and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine). 'We're feeling good,' noted Freund. 'This is week three of sailing in Canada for us. We haven't sailed against most of this fleet since [the 2013 IFDS Worlds in Kinsale] Ireland, but the Sonar Open North Americans last week was the ideal tune-up.' Andrew Fisher (Greenwich, Ct.) and his team of Mike Hersey (Hyannis, Mass.) and 2004 Paralympic bronze medalist Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) are on hand as well. At the North American Championships tune-up event last week, both US boats looked fast, with Fisher/Hersey/Johnson finishing fourth, and Doerr/Angle/Freund in eighth.
Racing begins in Halifax on Tuesday, August 19, and concludes on Sunday, August 24. US Roster: 2014 IFDS World Championships
• Daniel Evans (Miami, Fla.)
• Charlie Rosenfield (Woodstock, Ct.)
• Ted Green (Newport, R.I.)
• John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wisc.)
• Kevin Holmberg (Sarasota, Fla.) SKUD-18 Class:
• Ryan Porteous (San Diego, Calif.) and Cindy Walker (Portsmouth, R.I.)
• Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) and Gerry Tiernan (Falmouth, Maine) Sonar Class:
• Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Reading, Mass.) and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine)
• Andrew Fisher (Greenwich, Ct.), Mike Hersey (Hyannis, Mass.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) Event website