US Disabled Sailing Team AlphaGraphics: 2001, 2003-2004, 2007
Member of: Jubilee YC
Education: Minnechaug Regional High School, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Birthdate: Feb. 2, 1965
Birthplace: Lynn, Mass,
Hometown: Marblehead, Mass.
Occupation: Adaptive sailing coordinator
Significant sailing achievements: Becoming the first woman to be a member of the US Disabled Sailing Team and the first woman to represent the United States in Paralympic sailing
Biography: The Trials win, which earned skipper Nick Scandone and crew McKinnon-Tucker their first berth to the Paralympic Games, was a personal triumph for both racers who had overcome great obstacles. In the ’90s, McKinnon-Tucker fell 13 feet off a seawall and became paralyzed. In 2002, Scandone was diagnosed with ALS.
McKinnon-Tucker learned to sail when she was 20, when she met Dan Tucker, who later became her husband. Tucker raced J/24 sailboats, and she started to compete. After her accident, McKinnon-Tucker tried racing again. But the J/24s were too challenging; the Freedom 20s designed for individuals with disabilities were too tame.
She gave up sailing for a while, until a chance meeting with Paralympic skipper Rick Doerr, who invited her aboard his triplehanded Sonar as crew. McKinnon-Tucker, Doerr, and crew Tim Angle campaigned for the 2004 Paralympics. After a third place at the Trials, McKinnon-Tucker moved on to the SKUD-18, a doublehanded, performance dinghy making its Paralympic debut at the ’08 Games. She connected with Scandone, and their pairing had a certain electricity: they blazed to top finishes in a series of events before earning a spot on the Paralympic team.
At US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR, a key opportunity to spar against an international fleet of top SKUD racers, both sailors were grappling with turbulent upsets in their lives. Scandone had recently lost his father-in-law; McKinnon-Tucker’s two-year-old son had been diagnosed with cancer and would soon be undergoing chemotherapy. Still, they won the OCR in the same convincing manner as the Trials.
“We can both compartmentalize our lives,” says McKinnon-Tucker. “Sometimes, it is easier to navigate on the racecourse than in life.”
2008 1st US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR/Miami,
2007 1st Sperry Top-Sider Marblehead NOOD Regatta/Marblehead, Mass., 2nd IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship/Rochester, N.Y., 3rd C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Regatta/Newport, R.I.