The U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team is ready to begin racing at the 2012 Paralympic Games. With the Paralympic Sailing Regatta due to begin on Sept. 1 and continue through Sept. 6, the six-athlete strong team has completed boat measurement, registration and today’s practice race.
Jen French and JP Creignou (both St. Petersburg, Fla.) will sail in the Two Person Keelboat, the SKUD-18. This is the first Games for French, while Creignou is a 2004 Paralympic bronze medalist (Sonar).
One practice race was scheduled today at 11:00, but with unstable wind conditions racing was delayed for an hour. Once racing was underway, the conditions saw 90-degree shifts, but Creignou said that it was valuable time spent.
“The practice race was to check our systems, because we just put the boat back together after measurement,” he explained. “We also used it to do some tuning to make sure we’re good on speed. Nothing fancy, just making sure we’re fast enough.”
The two have spent a good amount of time training in St. Petersburg, Fla. and here at the Paralympic venue, with coach Ian Clingan. “Everything is working well and we’re looking forward to starting,” said Creignou. “We were very lucky to hook up with Ian last year. We really mesh well with him and he is very calm. He knows the boat very well and he’s a good fit for us. We are very confident with him on our side and how we have prepared for the regatta.”
The team’s past performance highlights in the SKUD-18 include a bronze medal at US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Miami OCR and a silver at the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) World Championships. French and Creignou are both members of St. Petersburg Yacht Club.
In the One Person Keelboat, the 2.4 Metre, Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) will represent USA for the first time.
Today’s practice race gave everyone a chance to warm-up and to check the boat’s speed. “We’ve been sailing against each other for years now, so you know who is doing what and who is the better sailor,” said LeBlanc. “My goals for this event is to do as well as I can. This is my first time at the Games. I’m trying to take it all in and do as well as I can.”
LeBlanc is coached by Marko Dahlberg. “He’s got a tremendous amount of knowledge,” said LeBlanc. “He helped coach Johnny (Ruf) to a bronze medal in China and he has the know-how and talent. He’s a two-time world champion in the 2.4. We’ve been working together for six years and have a great relationship.”
He went on to note that his hometown of New Orleans was on his mind, but that his own home was OK following Hurricane Isaac.
LeBlanc realized his dream of qualifying for the 2012 Games after a disappointing finish at the 2008 Paralympic Trials in the 2.4mR. He tied on points with, and finished second to, John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.), who went on to win the 2008 Paralympic bronze medal. LeBlanc, the 2011 2.4mR National Champion, represents Southern Yacht Club.
Paul Callahan (Cape Coral, Fla./Newport R.I.), Tom Brown (Castine, Me.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) are all Paralympians, with a combined three Paralympic medals. Callahan is a 2000 Paralympian (Sonar), Johnson is a 2004 Paralympic Bronze Medalist (Sonar), and Brown is a two-time Paralympian, winning bronze in 2000 (2.4mR) and silver in 2004 (2.4mR).
“The boat is as good as it’s ever been,” said Brown. The first couple of days we broke everything we could and then Donnie put it back together stronger than ever. We practiced yesterday and it was faster than ever. Today, we finished fifth, but we were probably the fastest boat downwind. We’re ready to go; we just want to hear that starting gun go.”
On the 11-race series: “What I like about this format is that there’s not a lay day,” said Brown. “The Games in Athens, I was leading going into the lay day and it threw off my momentum.”
The team is coached by Betsy Alison. “She has done everything she could possibly do,” he continued. “She has done everything we have asked of her and more. We are prepared. There isn’t anything more we need to do except start the boat.”
The team finished 6th at US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Miami OCR. Callahan represents New York Yacht Club YC) and Charlotte Harbor YC and Johnson is a member of St. Petersburg YC and Shake-A-Leg Miami.
Eleven races are scheduled on Portland Harbour, with two races per day September 1-5 and one race on September 6. A total of 80 sailors will compete in three events: 2.4mR (16), SKUD-18 (22) and Sonar (42).
How to follow the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team
- Team news will be posted to the website http://Olympics.USSailing.org, along with a photo gallery, video and audio interviews.
- Video interviews with the Team will be posted to the website or subscribe to the Team’s YouTube channel http://www.YouTube.com/USSailingTeam.
- For more news throughout the day or to post a message to the Team or an individual athlete, follow the US Sailing Team on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/USSailingTeam or on Twitter http://www.Twitter.com/USSailingTeam.
- To subscribe to the Teams daily reports through the Medalist newsletter, go to http://sailingteams.ussailing.org/News/The_Medalist.htm
How to follow the Paralympic Games
- U.S. Paralympics will provide 10 daily video highlights packages via its U.S. Paralympics YouTube channel. The videos will chronicle the competition, athlete stories and will also include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.USParalympics.org will also have significant coverage of the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team.
- NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air one-hour highlight shows on Sept. 4, 5, 6 and 11 at 7 p.m. EDT. Following the Paralympic Games, on Sept. 16, NBC will broadcast a 90 minute special from 2-3:30 p.m. EDT. All NBC and NBC Sports Network Paralympic highlight shows and specials will re-air on Universal Sports Network and UniversalSports.com.
- The IPC, the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement, also recently announced its online coverage plans for the 2012 Paralympic Games, which will include broadcasting 580 hours of live sport from London 2012 on Paralympic.org during the competition.
- During each day of London 2012, the IPC website will broadcast four streams of uninterrupted live coverage from the Paralympics with English commentary, including daily coverage of swimming, wheelchair basketball and athletics, while a fourth channel will cover a range of sports. A fifth channel will broadcast a mixture of sports with Spanish commentary.
- In addition, more than 1,000 hours of sporting action from a number of venues, including individual races and matches, will be made available on Paralympic.org as video on demand during the course of the Games. Two daily five minute news bulletins will also be produced in English and Spanish.
The Paralympic Regatta will be held September 1-6, 2012, in the towns of Weymouth and Portland, which are located on the southern coast of England, approximately 120 miles southwest of London. There are 11 ra
Sailing appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games and in 2000 was included in the Paralympic Games Competition program as a medal sport with events for the Sonar (three person keelboat) and the 2.4mR (single-person keelboat). Tom Brown won a bronze medal in the 2.4mR event.
The same events were on show at Athens 2004 and JP Creignou and Brad Johnson won a bronze medal in the Sonar, while Tom Brown won his second Paralympic medal, a silver, in the 2.4mR.
The SKUD18 was introduced for the Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games as the equipment for the two-person dinghy outlining the evolution of sailing at the Games. Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker won the USA’s first gold medal at the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Regatta in Qingdao, China. John Ruf exceeded expectations by winning an impressive bronze medal in a tight 2.4 mR fleet.
About the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team
The U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team is managed by the United States Sailing Association (US Sailing), the national governing body for the sport of sailing and sailboat racing. Athletes in each Paralympic class were selected to the Team based on performance at two selection events. Three Paralympic Sailing events will be contested September 1-6: One Person Keelboat (2.4mR), Two Person Keelboat (SKUD-18) and Three Person Keelboat (Sonar).
The United States Sailing Association (US Sailing), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership, integrity, and growth for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US Sailing is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US Sailing offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Sailing Teams. For more information, please visit us at www.ussailing.org.