John Ruf

2008 U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team Bio

July 31, 2008


Walter Cooper/ Us Sailing

Class: 2.4mR
Position: Skipper
US Disabled Sailing Team AlphaGrahics: 2001-2004, 2006-2008
Member of: Pewaukee YC/Milwaukee Community Sailing Center
Education: Brookfield Academy, Washington University (graduated 1990), University of Wisconsin Madison Law School (graduated 1993)
Birthdate: March 4, 1968
Birthplace: Chicago
Hometown: Pewaukee, Wis.
Occupation: Attorney/Legal & Compliance

Significant sailing achievements: Sailor of the Year/Milwaukee Community Sailing Center (2007)

Biography: On a February afternoon, with 201 days until the Paralympic Games, 2.4mR skipper John Ruf is home in Wisconsin, planning his last stretch of training before he reaches the starting line in Qindgao. He can see Lake Pewaukee from his window. It’s frozen solid and covered with snow, “but if I close my eyes, in my mind I can picture it as soft water,” says Ruf, who would clearly rather be on the water-especially this patch of water, where he grew up and learned to sail from his mother and grandfather.


These days, however, Ruf hasn’t time to daydream. “I just completed a brutal self-analysis about what I need to focus on before China, and when I got done, I wondered, ‘How did I win the Trials?'” he jokes. What came from that critique was a laundry list of tasks to address before the Paralympics-from sharpening his tactics, to being a better student of the rules, to working on his equipment.

As a youth, Ruf sailed X-boats, then moved to M Scows and E Scows. He spent much of his childhood shuttling between doctors and hospitals after a tumor was discovered on his spine, but he still sailed. After a car accident, a wheelchair became his mode of transport. He discovered the 2.4mR while flipping through a sailing magazine during his recuperation.

Ruf estimates that 90 percent of his training is in mixed fleets of disabled and able-bodied sailors. The one thing that frustrates him, however, is the label of disabled sailor tagged to the sport he plays. “It’s the same sailing I did in my E-Scow,” he says. For Ruf, the water is a great equalizer-but he wished the rest of the world saw it that way: “I have this crazy fantasy, that what I do could just be called sailing.”


Recent Results:
2008 8th US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR/Miami
2007 3rd C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Regatta/Newport, R.I., 4th 2.4mR Midwinter Championships/St. Petersburg, Fla., 10th IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship/Rochester, N.Y.


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