2008 Qingdao Paralympic Regatta

John Ruf adds a bronze in the 2.4mR to the gold won by Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker. The U.S. Sailing Team medals in two of three classes at the 2008 Paralympic Regatta in Qingdao, China.

Sept. 13

2.4 mR sailor John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) added a Bronze Medal to the U.S. Paralympic Team's medal count today, joining Gold Medalists Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) on the podium at the 2008 Paralympic Regatta. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass.) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J.) finished eighth in the competitive Sonar class.

Ruf scored two fourth place finishes today, securing a coveted bronze medal in the tight 2.4 mR fleet. Going into the final day of racing today, the top seven players of the fleet were all within single-digit points of each other. Surrounded by previous Paralympic medalists and world champions, first-time Paralympian Ruf sailed two solid races today and proved his talent by claiming his place on the podium. (France's Damien Seguin was the defending gold medalist, Germany's Heiker Kroger won a gold medal in 2000, and The Netherlands' Thierry Schmitter won bronze in 2004.)

"He's over the moon," said Head Coach Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.). "He came into this as an underdog. For those of us who know Johnny, his work ethic and how hard he has been working to improve his speed, we are so proud."

Ruf spent the last year training with Canada's Paul Tingley, who won the gold medal, and his hard work paid off. Alison also credits his improvements to his coach, Marko Dahlberg (Ylojarvi, Finland), who, himself, is a 2.4 mR world champion. A year ago, Ruf finished tenth overall at the 2008 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship in Rochester, N.Y.. "Since then, he has jumped to the forefront and onto the leader board," said Alison. "It's a fantastic achievement."

Champions Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker clinched the gold medal in the SKUD-18 class yesterday with two races left in the series. While their substantial lead secured their medal yesterday, they decided to sail one race today to show their support for the rest of the fleet. They enjoyed the second race from the sidelines. "They showed great camaraderie and respect for their fellow competitors by sailing hard and sailing well," said Alison.

Not only were they both first time Paralympians and first-time Paralympian gold medalists, McKinnon-Tucker entered the history books as the first female gold medalist in the history of the Paralympic Sailing Regatta. Their win was also the first time the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team has won a gold medal. During tonight's Medal and Closing Ceremonies in Qingdao, Scandone and McKinnon received a thunderous round of applause of appreciation from their fellow international competitors.

The Sonar team of Doerr, Angle and Donohue ended the regatta with a strong final race, in which they finished second behind Great Britain and way ahead of the rest of the fleet. After a tough first race, Alison advised the team to win the start of the next race, have fun and sail their hearts out -- and that they did. The breeze built over the course of the day, helping their boat speed. "They have heart and they have determination," said Alison. "They came here to sail, and they gave it their all."

"I'm proud of their work and effort preparing for this event over last couple years," said Alison. "They're all positive and smiling tonight, so I'm really happy for them."

Throngs of spectators, sailors and support teams gathered for tonight's medal ceremony, basked by idyllic pre-sunset light. "There's so much energy that surrounds a prize giving, especially of this magnitude," said Alison. "It was so exciting to see the sailors parade in behind the podiums."

During the 2.4 mR medal presentation, Ruf grinned brightly while watching the American flag being raised. "His smile could have lit up the Empire State Building," said Alison. When the national anthem played for teary-eyed Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker, the emotion felt by the entire U.S. Paralympic Team, who are all first time Paralympians, was palpable, said Alison.

"It was incredible to be able to experience it with them, especially because it's been a long and hard road with the athletes," said Alison. "It was a collective team effort, from families to coaches to support staff. Everyone who was there was part of that medal and victory today."

The team will travel to Beijing to represent Sailing and Team USA at the Closing Ceremony on Wednesday, September 17.

Final Standings for U.S. Paralympic Sailors (For full results please visit ISAF's web site)

SKUD-18: 11 boats
1. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif., USA) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass., USA), 2, 1, 1, 1, (3), 2, 1, 1, 2, (12 DNS); 11
2. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox, AUSTRALIA, (4), 2, 2, 2, 2, 4, (9), 3, 1, 2; 18
3. John Scott McRoberts and Stacie Louttit, CANADA, 3, 3, 3, 3, 1, 3, 2, (8), (4), 3; 21

Sonar: 14 boats
1. Jens Kroker, Robert Prem, Siegmund Mainka, GERMANY, 5, 6, 3, 1, 4, (11), 5, 2, (9), 4, 5; 35
2. Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, FRANCE, 4, 1, 1, 2, (7), 1,(10), 5, 8, 7, (15 DNF); 36
3. Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Graeme Martin, AUSTRALIA, 8, 4, 2, 3, 3, 3, 1, (10), (15 OCS), 5, 7; 36
8. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J., USA), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass., USA) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J., USA), 1, 9, 10, 6, (11), 10, 2, 3, 4, (11), 2; 47

2.4 mR: 16 boats
1. Paul Tingley, CANADA, 1, 1, 5, 2, (9), (9), 2, 4, 5, 1; 21
2. Damien Seguin, FRANCE, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, (17 OCS), (11), 1, 1, 2; 25
3. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis., USA), 2, 6, 1, (9), 1, 7, (10), 3; 29

Sept. 12

US SAILING/Dan Tucker **| |With two races still remaining for the 11-boat SKUD-18 fleet, Nick Scandone (left) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker have clinched the gold medal.**| Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) clinched the gold medal in the SKUD-18 fleet Friday with two races left to go in the Paralympic regatta. The unstoppable team won two more races today, strengthening their substantial nine-point lead ahead of their competitors. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) sits in second place in the 2.4 mR fleet, while the Sonar team of Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass.) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J.), had their single best racing day of the regatta today.

Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker plan to race tomorrow, the last day of the regatta, even though they have already secured the gold medals. "It's almost hard to believe," said Scandone, incredulously. "I won't feel like it's real until the gold medal is placed around my neck."

"I feel exhausted, very satisfied and somewhat overwhelmed all at the same time," he said. "It's been such a long road to get here," he said. "It's emotionally overwhelming for me to finally realize my goal."

For Scandone, this gold medal is everything he has dreamed of and worked hard to achieve. As his condition progressed from ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, it became increasingly more difficult to train and compete. There were days filled with doubt, but he met each obstacle with the same strength and determination he had as a young, able-bodied sailor. "This is something I've strived for since I was 20 years old, when I was trying to go for gold in the 470 class. Now, to reach that goal," he said, "it's hard to describe in words."

Mary-Kate Scandone has supported her husband every step of his Olympic and Paralympic journey, through the accomplishments and the adversity and through the enthusiasm and exhaustion. "I have seen struggles behind the scenes that were so tremendous to overcome," she said. "It was so hard to just get here. There were many times Nick doubted he was going to make it to China."

"I feel so much joy that he has achieved this goal," she added. "Now it's time to go home and rest."

This is a bittersweet moment for the couple. "It's everything we've been fighting for," said Mary-Kate. "Sailing and his [Paralympic] goal has kept him alive." In an emotional moment, Mary-Kate thanked the designer of Nick's boat "because he gave me four more years with my husband," she said.

** US SAILING/Mike Pinckney | |Nick Scandone, who suffers from ALS, celebrates his win in the SKUD-18 division with crew Maureen McKinnon-Tucker**| Today, they are basking in the moment of this momentous experience. "Let's think about today and every moment and every second of this experience," Mary-Kate told Nick. "It's still not over yet."

Nick Scandone credits a team of people who have assisted him in reaching his Paralympic goals. "This gold medal is not only for me and Maureen," he said. "It's for all the other people who have helped me along the way, from my yacht club to family and friends who have supported me throughout my venture."

The entire team celebrated Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker's gold medal achievement today after racing, providing their teammates the confidence and positive mental attitude going into the last day of racing. "Their gold medal performance is a combination of a lot of hard work two of them to put together," said an ecstatic Head Coach Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.). "I couldn't be prouder of our team and our athletes' efforts. Everyone is supporting each other."

The Sonar team of Skipper Doerr and his crew, Angle and Donohue had their single best racing day of the regatta, with strong second, third and fourth place finishes. Doerr's team won their fleet today by earning the lowest combined score in the Sonar class. The heavy team welcomed more wind today (6 to 8 knots), after a week of limp air that wreaked havoc on their speed and confidence.

"This light stuff is just a horror," he said. "We didn't have the boat speed to punch out."

Once the wind hit 8 knots, Doerr said his boat started rumbling, and their boat speed increased. Their second, third and fourth place scores proved their decision to race conservatively was right on track. "It was all about being smart, staying in touch and doing all the basic things right. We had enough velocity across the course to sail our regular game plan."

"We knew if we stayed in the hunt, we'd be proud of our performance," said Doerr. He said his team stayed relaxed on the water today, after fighting stressful and challenging conditions all week. They replaced their nervousness and anxiety with optimism. "I don't know if that made us sail better, but we felt a lot better today. The pressure was off."

A tropical storm looms in the China Sea, which could bring more breeze and big waves on the race course tomorrow. This is music to Doerr's ears. "It would be idyllic for us," said Doerr. "We're salivating."

"If we get the same kind of conditions we had today, we might be able to threaten this fleet a little more," challenged Doerr. "They may have experienced a false sense of security. We may be the dark horse on the outside that no one is paying attention to."

2.4 mR sailor Ruf sailed two races today, adding a third place finish to his scorecard and dropping his lowest score of tenth place. Ruf sits in an admirable second place going into the final day of racing. "John is focused on the positive and moving forward," said Alison. "He's ready to get the job done."

"When the die is rolled and the scores come out, we can absolutely say we put our best foot forward," said Alison.

The final two races of the regatta are scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, September 13. The medals will also be awarded tomorrow. The regatta includes a total of eleven races over five days throughout the week. There will not be a medal race in the Paralympic Regatta, unlike the Olympic Regatta last month.

Current Standings for U.S. Paralympic Sailors (For full results please visit ISAF's web site)

SKUD-18: 11 boats
1. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif., USA) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass., USA), 2, 1, 1, 1, (3), 2, 1, 1; 9
2. John Scott McRoberts and Stacie Louttit, CANADA, (3), 3, 3, 3, 1, 3, 2, (8); 18
3. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox, AUSTRALIA, (4), 2, 2, 2, 2, 4, (9), 3; 19

Sonar: 14 boats
1. Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, FRANCE, 4, 1, 1, 2, (7), 1,(10), 5, (8); 21
2. Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Graeme Martin, AUSTRALIA, 8, 4, 2, 3, 3, 3, 1, (10), (15 OCS); 24
3. Jens Kroker, Robert Prem, Siegmund Mainka, GERMANY, 5, 6, 3, 1, 4, (11), 5, 2, (9); 26
7. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J., USA), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass., USA) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J., USA), 1, 9, 10, 6, (11), 10, 2, 3, 4; 35

2.4 mR: 16 boats
1. Paul Tingley, CANADA, 1, 1, 5, 2, (9), 9, 2, 4; 24
2. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis., USA), 2, 6, 1, (9), 1, 7, (10), 3; 29
3. Heiko Kroger, GERMANY, 3, 2, (11), 6, 4, 3, 1, 11; 41

Sept. 11

Courtesy US SAILING| |With the 2008 Paralympic Regatta half over, Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (right) have a 5-point lead over second in the SKUD-18 class.| Light and variable air forced extremely tight racing today in the Paralympic Regatta, but Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) and John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) sailed well and ended the day leading the SKUD-18 and 2.4 mR classes, respectively. After three hour postponements, sailors were finally able to get in one out of three scheduled races today, but it was more like a crawl than a race.

"We couldn't be happier that our team is on track and sailing fast and well," said Head Coach Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.). "We're halfway through the regatta now and as long as we stay calm and focused, we'll get the job done. We're making the U.S. proud."

The SKUD-18s and 2.4 mRs endured challenging conditions today on their shared course, including low pressure and 3-5 knots of wind in a transitional current. "The conditions were the stuff they promised we wouldn't have and it turned out that we did," said McKinnon-Tucker. "It turns into a crap shoot because one little cat paw breeze or two waves crush you and you're done. It is so difficult to get speed."

Once the SKUD-18 fleet started racing after 3 p.m. in light winds, boats from both sides of the first windward leg converged at windward mark. On the next run, they spread out slightly, and five countries led the pack: Great Britain, Malaysia, USA's Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker, Australia and Canada. The positions moved around slightly on the run, but the racing was very tight. On the final run through the gate on the way to the finish line, those same five boats appeared to be in an overlapping cluster. At the same time, there was so little wind that all of their spinnakers collapsed. "They hung limp like dish rags," said McKinnon-Tucker.

Suffering from a complete lack of wind, a pack of boats headed for the right gate and Scandone and McKinnon-Tuckler gybed into the left gate and passed everyone except the British, who finished first. Scandone/McKinnon-Tucker followed in second place, and Malaysia finished third.

"It was a very hard-fought race," said McKinnon-Tucker. Their second place finish in today's race further established their overall lead, and they sit five points ahead of second-place Australia.

"Boat speed can make you feel smart, but when you don't have it, you're constantly wondering, 'are we doing the right thing?" said McKinnon-Tucker. "It's difficult to be patient. We weren't going any slower than anyone else, even though we're going painfully slow. We knew the finish line would come eventually!" Her spirits were boosted by seeing her eight-year-old daughter, Dana, on the spectator boat, waving a homemade sign that read, "Go Mom! Win the gold!"

Looking ahead to tomorrow, McKinnon-Tucker and Scandone hope for at least 5 knots of breeze. Their goal is to broaden their lead ahead of Australia and Canada, who sit in second and third place. McKinnon-Tucker also hopes the next few days of racing won't be as long as today, so they can conserve Scandone's energy. Scandone suffers from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Every day is a challenge for him, and the support team makes sure he is getting the rest he needs.

The 2.4 mR started racing after the SKUDs on their shared course, but experienced even lighter breeze than the first fleet, which forced another tight race. "It really becomes a game of who rolls the dice," said Ruf.

Courtesy US SAILING| |Sailing steadily in challenging conditions, John Ruf has moved himself into first place in the 2.4mR class after six races.| Fortunately for Ruf, he grew up sailing on inland Pewaukee Lake in Wisconsin, where the air is typically light. "It came in handy today," he said. Ruf sailed a successful race today by seeking out the puffs and staying in the pressure downwind. The last downwind seemed to last an eternity, and at the last third of the beat, the wind shut off and the boats drifted past the finish line. "It was complete misery," he said. "You didn't know where the wind was going to come from next. It was touch and go." Ruf ended up finishing seventh in the race, but his closest rival in the overall standings, Canada's Paul Tingley, finished after him, pushing Ruf into first place overall.

The Sonar team of Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), and his crew, Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass.) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J.), experienced slightly more breeze than the other two fleets, and they were able to race in 4 ∏ -6 knots on a short, double windward/leeward course. Doerr and his crew were in fifth place at the top of the windward leg, but when they gybed to port to catch a more advantageous current, the pressure filled in the opposite side of the race course. Unfortunately, their calculated risk didn't pay off, and they lost several boat positions on the final run, finishing tenth overall.

"They plan to go out and attack the race course tomorrow," said Alison. "They're looking forward to an awesome day on the water tomorrow."

Because the racing is behind schedule, the Race Committee scheduled three races tomorrow, starting an hour earlier, at 12 noon. If they get three races in tomorrow, which will be nine races total, sailors will be able to drop their two worst scores. The regatta includes a total of eleven races over five days throughout the week. Medals will be awarded on the final day of racing, Saturday, September 13. There will not be a medal race in the Paralympic Regatta, unlike the Olympic Regatta last month.

Current Standings for U.S. Paralympic Sailors (For full results please visit ISAF's web site)

SKUD-18: 11 boats
1. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif., USA) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass., USA), 2, 1, 1, 1, (3), 2; 7
2. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox, AUSTRALIA, (4), 2, 2, 2, 2, 4; 12
3. John Scott McRoberts and Stacie Louttit, CANADA, (3), 3, 3, 3, 1, 3; 13

Sonar: 14 boats
1. Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, FRANCE, 4, 1, 1, 2, (7), 1; 9
2. Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Graeme Martin, AUSTRALIA, (8), 4, 2, 3, 3, 3; 15
3. Jens Kroker, Robert Prem, Siegmund Mainka, GERMANY, 5, (6), 3, 1, 4, (11); 19
8. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J., USA), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass., USA) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J., USA), 1, 9, 10, 6, (11), 10; 36

2.4 mR: 16 boats
1. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis., USA), 2, 6, 1, (9), 1, 7; 17
2. Paul Tingley, CANADA, 1, 1, 5, 2, (9), 9; 18
3. Thierry Schmiter, NETHERLANDS, 5, 3, 2, (10), 7, 1; 18

Sept. 9

Courtesy US SAILING| |Nick Scandone (left) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker are currently leading the SKUD-18 division at the 2008 Paralympic Regatta in Qingdao, China.| It was another successful day for Team USA today, with two teams each winning two out of their three races. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) are enjoying the view from the top in the 11-boat SKUD-18 class, after grabbing two bullets and a third place finish today. After also winning two races today, John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) now sits in second place in the 2.4 mR, only one point shy away from the leader, Canada.

"We couldn't be more proud of their performances," said Head Coach Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.). "They sailed consistently out on the water and were persistent. That's all we can ask. As long as they stay positive and on track, things will come together in the end."

Ruf credits his two winning performances today with a strong start, fast speed and smart tactical decisions. In a tight and competitive fleet like the 2.4 mR, sailors must rely on finding their edge to claim a lead. One bad start or one missed opportunity, and they're left behind. In Ruf's first race today, he felt his start wasn't stellar but he jumped on the first shift before the rest of the fleet, which gave him the advantage sailing down-wind. He then guided down the shift quicker than the three boats in front of him, so he was able to pass them and take the lead. In contrast, Ruf said he had his best start of the series in the third race of the day, and everything clicked. "I nailed the start, and it was all downhill from there," he said.

"I haven't won that many races in my career, so it's pretty remarkable," said Ruf after racing today. "I have to get myself back on the planet." While Ruf basks in the glow of two bullets today, he knows there's more work to be done. "If I keep my speed up and keep sailing smart, I think things will go well," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Ruf's coach, Marko Dahlberg (Ylojarvi, Finland) credits Ruf with his smart tactical decisions on the water: Ruf knows when to tack and how to play with China's strong current. Most importantly, Dahlberg said, "Speed is our key. I think we are the fastest boat in the world."

Courtesy US SAILING| |Nick Scadone and Maurenn McKinnon-Tucker, the American entrant in the SKUD-18 division chase the Chinese team of Hailiang Jia and Xiujuan Yang on Day 1 of the 2008 Paralympic Regatta.| Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker padded their lead in the SKUD-18 class with two more wins today. They dropped their "worst" score today, an enviable third place finish. Despite a slow start in their first race today, they managed to pick off boats one by one, and claimed the lead by a substantial distance. After a brilliant start in their second race, Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker strongly suspected they started early. Fearing the worst, they circled back and restarted. Despite this initial setback, they relied on their boat speed and a little luck to capture the lead. On the first leg, the fleet leaders mistakenly mistook a mark from another course, and other boats followed suit. Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker diverted from the pack and headed for the correct mark for the SKUD-18 course, capturing the lead.

The duo first started racing together a year ago, when Scandone switched from the 2.4 mR to the double-handed SKUD-18. Ever since, they have been an unstoppable force in this competitive fleet, winning the 2007 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials and US SAILING's 2008 Rolex Miami OCR by wide margins. McKinnon-Tucker credits their teamwork with their success: "Nick and I just really gel, and we work well together as a team," she said. "I feel very privileged to sail with him."

"There isn't a lot of chatter on the boat," she said. "We manage to know what each other is feeling without words. It's different than any other team I have sailed with. Everything just clicks."

"Of course, it could be because we're both Pisces," she added.

The Sonar team of skipper Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), and his crew, Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass.) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J.), faced a tough day on the water today - condition- and competition-wise. The light and shifty breeze forced them to commit to the sides of the course early, but one slight misstep or delay proved to be costly. Despite some good starts, Doerr and his team weren't able to capitalize on the side opportunities when they presented themselves, said Alison. "They're positive and looking forward to the second half of the series," said Alison today. "We have a lot of racing left."

The athletes will be able to recharge their batteries tomorrow during the scheduled Reserve Day. Because they had five races under their belts, sailors were able to drop their worst scores today. After nine races, they will be able to drop a second score. The sailors will race a total of eleven races over five days throughout the week. Medals will be awarded on the final day of racing, Saturday, September 13. There will not be a medal race in the Paralympic Regatta, unlike the Olympic Regatta last month.

Current Standings for U.S. Paralympic Sailors (For full results please visit ISAF's web site: www.sailing.org/24859.php )

SKUD-18: 11 boats
1. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif., USA) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass., USA), 2, 1, 1, 1, (3); 5
2. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox, AUSTRALIA, (4), 2, 2, 2, 2; 8
3. John Scott McRoberts and Stacie Louttit, CANADA, (3), 3, 3, 3, 1; 10

Sonar: 14 boats
1. Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, FRANCE, 4, 1, 1, 2, (8); 8
2. Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Graeme Martin, AUSTRALIA, (8), 4, 2, 3, 3; 12
3. Jens Kroker, Robert Prem, Siegmund Mainka, GERMANY, 5, (6), 3, 1, 4; 13
7*. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J., USA), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass., USA) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J., USA), 1, 9, 10, 7, (12); 27
*USA scores are not final; pending protests

2.4 mR: 16 boats
1. Paul Tingley, CANADA, 1, 1, 5, 2, (9); 9
2. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis., USA), 2, 6, 1, (9), 1; 10
3. Heiko Kroger, GERMANY, 3, 2, (11), 6, 4; 15

Sept. 8

Courtesy US SAILING| |The Sonar team of Rick Doerr, Tim Angle, and Bill Donohue round a leeward mark during Day 1 of the 2008 Paralympic Regatta in Qingdao, China.| Team USA proved their prowess on the water with two bullets and a second place today, despite challenging conditions on the first day of racing at the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Regatta. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) battled out the conditions, which worsened as the day progressed, to grab a bullet and a second place in their first two races to claim the lead in the new SKUD-18 class. The Sonar team of Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass.) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J.) also won their first race today, beating Greece by almost eight boat lengths. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) also excelled in the 2.4 mR class with impressive second and sixth place finishes.

"It was a fantastic first day for all three fleets," said Head Coach Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.). "The U.S. is sailing well, sailing fast and sailing very clean."

It was a long and challenging day on the water for all three classes, as they first endured delays due to a lack of wind, and then later battled quickly-changing wind and current conditions. As a result, the fleet leader frequently changed throughout the races: Sailors experienced opportunities to gain or lose at least five places in less than five minutes. The 2.4 mR and SKUD-18 course became increasingly difficult as the day wore on, because the current and wind started going against each other, resulting in almost three-foot seas kicking up.

Today proved to be an especially long day for the SKUD-18 fleet, because their first race was postponed and the entire fleet was brought back to shore. When they returned to the water to start racing two hours later, Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker were ready for battle. Alison says delays can be detrimental to some sailors, but Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker conserved their energy and bounced back well with a second place finish behind China in their first race, and then a first place win in their second race. Sailing in 6 to 8 knots, the team sailed conservatively and smartly, according to their coach, Mike Pinckney (Costa Mesa, Calif.) "We got a great start in the second race and ended up winning," he said. "We sailed well and kept it simple."

"Nick and Maureen stepped up to plate and put together a great performance," said Alison. "They're very happy."

USA's Rick Doerr and his crew, Tim Angle and Bill Donohue, won their first Sonar race by approximately eight boat lengths, leaving behind second place Greece. In their second race, the triple-handed team struggled with the set-up of their second beat and finished in tenth place, securing fifth position overall. The team exhibited terrific boat speed and learned quickly from their minor missteps today. "They're going in to tomorrow's races with a 'Game On!' attitude," said Alison.

In a fleet filled with Paralympic veterans, 2.4 mR sailor John Ruf performed at a highly competitive level today, with second place and sixth place finishes under his belt. He ended his first day of racing in third place, behind Canada and Germany. After only sailing at this single-handed class and at the top Paralympic level for only a year, Alison called his accomplishments "exceptional." Alison added: "He has shown he is on par, speed-wise and smart-wise, with the best in the world."

Three races are scheduled tomorrow in all three classes, starting at 1 pm local time, weather-permitting. Alison said the team is ready and excited to continue racing at the same high level as today. "We have learned that consistent performances are what will bring us to the podium," said Alison. As for racing tomorrow, she said, "All we can do is take on the day and give it as much an effort as we did today."

Sailors will race a total of eleven races over five days throughout the week. Medals will be awarded on the final day of racing, Saturday, September 13. After 5 to 8 races completed, sailors can drop their worst score; after 9 to 11 races, they can drop two scores. There will not be a medal race in the Paralympic Regatta, unlike the Olympic Regatta last month.

Current Standings for U.S. Paralympic Sailors (For full results please visit ISAF's web site)

SKUD-18: 11 boats
1. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif., USA) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass., USA), 2, 1; 3
2. Hailiang Jia and Xiujuan Yang, CHINA, 1, 4; 5
3. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox, AUSTRALIA, 4, 2; 6

Sonar: 14 boats
1. Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, FRANCE, 4, 1; 5
2. Vasileios Christoforou, Theodoros Alexas and Nikolaos Paterakis, GREECE, 2, 5; 7
3. Jostein Stordahl, Per Eugen Kristiansen and Aleksander Wang-Hansen, NORWAY, 6, 2; 8
5. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J., USA), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass., USA) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J., USA), 1, 10; 11

2.4 mR: 16 boats
1. Paul Tingley, CANADA, 1,1; 2
2. Heiko Kroger, GERMANY, 3, 2; 5
3. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis., USA), 2, 6; 8