2016 Paralympic Sailing: Rallies at the Halfway Mark

The British and American squads surge up the leader board on day three.
USA Paralympic Sailing

Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition

USA’s Sonar Team, Rick Doerr, Hugh Freund and Brad Kendell climbed from 7th overall to 2nd, with three days remaining in the regatta. Richard Langdon/World Sailing

Day three of the Paralympic regatta couldn’t have been more different than the day before. The Rio sea breeze filled in with a purpose, allowing all three classes to complete three full races. The Sonar class is exactly halfway through their preliminary series, while the SKUD and 2.4mR have completed six out of the ten.

In the Sonar Class, the British team had the most memorable day, with three consecutive bullets that put them back in contention for a medal in fifth place overall.

The British Sailing Team caught up with the trio from Great Britain:


“Three-time World Champions Thomas, John Robertson and Hannah Stodel were in indefatigable form, leading from start to finish in each of the day’s encounters to start breathing down the necks of the boats currently occupying the medal spots.

The Brits had endured a difficult opening two days of their Rio 2016 Paralympic regatta and were placed in 12th overall overnight, after finishing at the back of the fleet in yesterday’s only race.

But today’s clean sweep has now moved them to within just two points of the podium places with five races still to come. Thomas insists they can now only keep doing what they have done today.


He said: “Some of the stuff we talked about last night in our debrief got put to bed and we came out on the water today and implemented everything we wanted to, which is quite satisfying.

“We had talked about belief and following our plans. We had a plan yesterday but didn’t follow it so we talked about having confidence in the plan, believing in ourselves and realizing we’ve got the pedigree. We came out with more of a positive mindset, not that we hadn’t in the previous two days, but just a bit more arousal.

“It’s a long week and now we’re only just over halfway through the regatta. If you look at the scores they’re shifting all over the place so we just need to be there or thereabouts come Saturday and see what happens. If we’re in the medal zone at the end of the week based on the previous two days racing we will be very happy.”’

Paralympic Sailing Sonar

Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition

Great Britain’s John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas sailed a perfect day Wednesday, with three bullets, vaulting them into fifth place. Richard Langdon/World Sailing

For the American Sonar team of Rick Doerr, Hugh Freund and Brad Kendell, Wednesday was a hopeful recovery, with a 2-3-3 scoreline that vaulted them into second place overall. “”One thing we did well today was keep our cool,” said Doerr in a US Sailing team statement. “We were fouled twice, but we didn’t let it get in the way. We stayed patient, kept our heads out of the boat, and placed ourselves well on the course. We probably weren’t the fastest boat out there today, but we sailed smart.”

Maureen McKinnon and Ryan Porteous had a similarly strong day as their countrymen, and the American SKUD-18 team is now in fifth place in the fleet with four preliminary races to go. The team sailed well despite dealing with some equipment problems. “We broke our boom vang at the beginning if the second race today, which made it hard to sail upwind,” said Porteous in a team statement. “Our main was flogging in the heavy breeze [after the breakdown], and we weren’t fast. We eventually passed a few boats though, and were happy about that.” McKinnon said that after they got the problem fixed, they were pleased to submit their best performance of the regatta to date, a second place in Race 6. “It was nice to get everything working, and sail the way we know we can.”

Also dealing with equipment challenges on Wednesday were the British SKUD team Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell who started the day well, but ran in to trouble with their boat, “Unfortunately for race three today, during start sequence we were fine. Gearing up ready. But our jib sheet fell off or snapped or something and we had to retire. It was unfortunate because we had gained some momentum today.”


The Australians continue to lead the SKUD fleet as they have all week, with am eight point lead over the second-place Brits. With four races left before the medal race, the top handful of teams will need to start putting dents in the Aussie’s near-perfect scorecard to have a shot at taking gold.

Paralympic Sailing SKUD 18

Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition

Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch’s near-perfect scorecard has kept them in the lead in the SKUD-18 class for three days and no signs of slowing down. Richard Langdon/World Sailing

In the 2.4mR, defending Paralympic champion from Great Britain, Helena Lucas, maintained the top position. Despite a good first two days of competition, she was scored a DSQ after fouling Sweden’s Fia Fjelddahl. The top six sailors in the 2.4mR fleet are separated by just six points, so the podium is still wide open. With Lucas’ DSQ, Australia’s Matthew Bugg and Germany’s Hekio Kroger are within striking distance to take the lead on Thursday. “It’s tough competition and this race course [Pao de Acucar] is very difficult to sail,” says Kroger. “The competition is very close in the 2.4. There are a lot of sailors who can sail fast and sometimes they might not have that experience in winning medals, but they are still very hard to beat. Although this is a small fleet, it is still a very hard competition.”

USA’s Dee smith had an up and down day, scoring an eighth and a first in two completed races, climbing back to into fifth place.

The fourth day of racing is scheduled to start at 1300 local time on Thursday. Full results, live tracking and a live blog are available at

The US Sailing Team provided a recap video with interviews of the athletes: