IFDS Worlds 2014 - Halifax, Nova Scotia (Final Report) - The 2014 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship has come to a close, and the United States has qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in the 2.4mR and SKUD-18 classes. In the Sonar class, the US narrowly missed qualification after a hard-fought event, but will have another opportunity to gain entry at the 2015 IFDS Worlds in Melbourne, Australia.
For US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider athletes who raced in Halifax, this week was an important test against the best Paralympic competition in the world. 'We plan to help our athletes as much as we can over the next two years, and work with them to get into medal contention,' said US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider High Performance Director Charlie McKee. 'We're making good progress midway through the [Paralympic quadrennium], but recognize that we have some hard work ahead to get us to the top.'
In the SKUD-18, Ryan Porteous (San Diego, Calif.) and Cindy Walker (Portsmouth, R.I.), sailing in only their second Worlds, finished in fifth overall, beating teams with far greater levels of experience. The top five nations in the SKUD-18 final standings gained entry to Rio 2016, and Porteous and Walker demonstrated patience and tenacity beyond their years by advancing to fifth after spending the first half of the event out of qualifying position. 'I have no words,' said Walker. 'It was a long week, and we were nervous. Today was the make-or-break point.' By finishing seventh today in a light and shifty final race, the American team ensured that the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider retained the Paralympic berth. 'It's great to qualify the country here for the 2016 Games, but we also saw what we need to do to get on the podium,' said Porteous. 'It's good to see how far we've come, but also to measure where we need to go.'
The 2014 IFDS Worlds marked the return of Paralympic medalist and 2.4mR open world champion John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wisc.) to the highest levels of international sailing. At the beginning of the event, Ruf was quick to manage expectations, noting that his goal in Halifax was 'just to finish the regatta.' Nevertheless, his sixth place result surprised even Ruf himself. 'No, not really,' said Ruf when asked if he expected to finish only three spots away from the podium. 'An 11 month break is a long time. It was good to be back.' Ruf also noted that it is much tougher these days to race at the head of the class. 'I think [the fleet this week] was stronger than it was when I left it. There are more countries.'
Other notable performances were put in by 2.4mR newcomer Ted Green (Newport, R.I., 14th overall) and the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider's Daniel Evens (Miami, Fla., 16th overall). Evans noted that the on-shore support received by athletes in Halifax, such as the presence of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team Boatwright Donovan Brennan (Mobile, Ala.), made a big difference. 'Those guys, like [Team Technical Director] Grant Spanhake were super good, and having Donnie work on the boats was nice too. When I brought my boat here it had some [problems] and work that I wanted to get done, and he took care of that real quick. My boat was in top shape.' Other specialists supporting US Athletes this week were medical staff Dr. Anne Allen (Wrightsville Beach, N.C.) Sue Crafer (Sydney, Australia), and Jeremy Marra (Ann Arbor, Mich.), coaches Betsy Alison (Head Paralympic Coach, US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider), Mike Pinckney (SKUD-18, Costa Mesa, Calif.), Bill Shore (Sonar, Newport, R.I.) and Marko Dahlberg (2.4mR, Ylojarvi, Finland).
Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Reading, Mass.) and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine), Sonar, US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider - IFDS Worlds 2014 - Will Ricketson - US Sailing Team
In the Sonar class, The US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider came agonizingly close to qualifying for Rio 2016 at this event, missing out by seven points. The top-ranked American team of Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Reading, Mass.) and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine) were in position to qualify as late as the last upwind leg of the final race on Day five, but an unfavorable windshift allowed the German and Norwegian teams to capitalize and move ahead in the overall standings. No further races were held at the event due to a lack of reliable breeze. 'It was a challenging regatta. Sometimes we did well to stay with the fleet, and sometimes we got out onto the wrong side of the course, and it cost us big,' said Paralympian and Sonar Disabled World Champion Doerr, now in his 14th year on the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider. 'This will encourage us to work that much harder. We'll take our program abroad. We've done this before, so I'm very confident we'll have an opportunity to qualify [at the 2015 IFDS Worlds]. We just have a lot of work to do in the meantime.'
Rio 2016 Nation Qualification System Notes: The 2014 IFDS World Championship served as the first nation qualifying event for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. A percentage of berths for Rio 2016 were allocated based on final results at this event. The top eight nations qualified for The Games in the 2.4mR class, the top five nations in the SKUD-18 class, and the top seven nations in the Sonar class.
Top US Results: 2014 IFDS World Championships, Final
• 6th, 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.)
• 8th, 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