NEWPORT, R.I. (July 8, 2012) – As the sailing capital of the world, Newport plays host to a diverse spectrum of the sport, with one of the most unique events on the summer calendar now underway: the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta. During its tenure, the Clagett has evolved into North America’s premier event for sailors with disabilities and from July 6-9 competitors are marking the 10 year anniversary of this annual event. The event’s hallmark one-day clinic took place on Friday, July 6, allowing competitors to work with well-known coaches to improve their skills before taking that knowledge and testing it during three days of racing, Saturday-Monday, July 7-9.
With London 2012 rapidly approaching, The Clagett, which utilizes the boats chosen for Paralympic competition – the three-person Sonar, the two-person SKUD-18 and the singlehanded 2.4 Metre – has again, as it did in 2008, drawn a number of sailors who will represent their respective nation at the Paralympic Games: in the 2.4 Metre, Marc LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) and Julio Reguero (Puerto Rico); in the SKUD-18, Jen French and JP Creignou (both St. Petersburg, Fla.); and in the Sonar class, Paul Callahan (Newport, R.I.) with Tom Brown (Castine, Maine) and Brad Johnson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and the Norwegian team led by skipper Aleksander Wang-Hansen, with Per Eugen Kristianson and Marie Solberg, who are the current world champions.
As one of the last training and competition events prior to the Paralympic Regatta, which takes place the first week of September in Weymouth, England, The Clagett is positioned to assist these athletes in reaching their Paralympic goals which is the central mission of The Clagett. Another focal point is to help any sailor with disabilities reach his or her personal goals, which may be as simple as getting on the water and racing. As Sonar skipper Richard Ramos (Medford, Mass.) explained, “it feels pretty good hanging with world champions on the way to the weather mark.”
Racing for all three fleets is being conducted just south of the Newport Pell Bridge, between Rose and Goat Islands. Although conditions were light and fluky for the first day of racing, three races were completed in each fleet, as they were for day two once the breeze settled in. In the two-boat SKUD-18 class, Jen French and JP Creignou (both St. Petersburg, Fla.) are treating this event primarily as an advanced coaching clinic, with Creignou explaining that they are benefitting from the extensive experience of Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) and Brenda Hopkin (Fairmont Hot Springs, CAN) who have raced in the SKUD-18 for several years. After six races, the Paralympians have a one-point lead over Everhart-Skeels and Hopkin.
A more closely contested battle is taking place on the Sonar course, where the reigning world champions Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Per Eugen Kristianson and Marie Solberg (all Oslo, Norway) lead the standings in that four-boat fleet. Wang-Hansen will compete for the fourth time as a Paralympian later this summer, and Kristianson will mark his third time. It will be the first trip to the Games for Solberg. They are currently tied on points with 2008 Paralympian Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.) and his crew Gerry Tiernan (Falmouth, Maine) and Hugh Freund (S Freeport, Maine). In third overall with 21 points, 11 points behind the tied leaders, is Paul Callahan (Newport, R.I. /Cape Coral, Fla.), Tom Brown (Castine, Maine) and Brad Johnson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). Although each has been to the Paralympics, they will see their first Paralympics as a team at the 2012 Games. Richard Ramos (Medford, Mass.), Duncan Gillespie (Charlestown, Mass.) and Steve Jewett (Winthrop, Mass.) are fourth overall with29 points.
In the 13-strong 2.4 Metre fleet, after six races the top two places on the standings are held by Paralympians: Marc LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) with 10 points and Julio Reguero (Guyanbo, Puerto Rico) with 19. In third with 21 points and pushing the Paralympians hard is 2010 Clagett champion Charles Rosenfield (Woodstock, Conn.). Canadians Peter Wood (Ottawa, Ont.) and Jackie Gay (Victoria, B.C.), a member of the Canadian Development Team, round out the top-five with, respectively, 24 and 36 points.
Racing concludes on Monday, July 9. For complete scores, photos and additional information, visit www.clagettregatta.org or become a “Friend” on Facebook.
About the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic & Regatta: Founded in 2002, the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta honors the late Tom Clagett (1916-2001), a U.S. Navy World War II veteran who learned to sail on Chesapeake Bay. As a youngster he suffered temporary paralysis as the result of a bout of meningitis; an experience that left him with a deep respect for the accomplishments of people with disabilities, especially athletes. “The Clagett” began as an event for a single class of boat with a stated mission of assisting sailors in realizing their potential on the water by providing them – through the one-day clinic that precedes racing – both the knowledge and tools to improve their skills, and the opportunity to test them in competition. The event has expanded to include all three boats that have been chosen as the equipment of the Paralympic Regatta: the three-person Sonar, the two-person SKUD-18 and the singlehanded 2.4 Metre. Not only has The Clagett formula paid off with medal success by event veterans at the 2008 Paralympic Games in China, it has, according to competitors, improved their quality of life as they apply what is achieved on the water to everyday situations.
July 9, 2012
Norwegian Paralympians Win Sonar, US Paralympian Wins 2.4 Metre
Against the backdrop of over a dozen vessels assembling for the Ocean State Tall Ships Parade of Sail, competitors got down to business on the final day of racing at the 10th annual C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta. Setting courses just off Goat Island, PRO Ron Hopkins was able to run two races for the 2.4 Metre and Sonar classes before a dying northerly, competing with a flooding tide, forced him to abandon while those sailors were mid-race. Observing that conditions were unlikely to improve in the time allowed for racing, the decision was made to send the competitors ashore.
A hard-fought battle took place on the Sonar course where Paralympians and reigning world champions Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Per Eugen Kristianson and Marie Solberg (all Oslo, Norway) had started the day with the lead of the standings – while tied on points – with 2008 Paralympian Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.) and crew Gerry Tiernan (Falmouth, Maine) and Hugh Freund (S Freeport, Maine). With the Norwegian team posting finishes of 2-1, and Doerr’s team finishing 3-2, the Norwegians prevailed to take their first class win at The Clagett with 13 points, just one point ahead of Doerr, Tiernan and Freund. The USA’s representatives to the Paralympic Games remained third overall, 12 points out of first place, despite finishing 1-3 in today’s racing. Paul Callahan (Newport, R.I. /Cape Coral, Fla.), Tom Brown (Castine, Maine) and Brad Johnson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), will compete for the first time as a team at the Paralympic Games, although all three have competed in a previous Paralympics. Richard Ramos (Medford, Mass.), Cindy Walker (Abington, Mass.), Duncan Gillespie (Charlestown, Mass.) and Steve Jewett (Winthrop, Mass.) were fourth overall with 37 points.
With the largest turnout of any class in the regatta’s history, the 13-strong 2.4 Metre fleet sailed two races today. With two Paralympians in the fleet – Marc LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) and Julio Reguero (Guyanbo, Puerto Rico) – as well as 2010 class winner Charles Rosenfield (Woodstock, Conn.), the racing for the podium positions was intense. Reguero and Rosenfield had each won a race thus far in the series and the day started with Reguero in second by just a three point margin over Rosenfield. LeBlanc, who had won two races on the second day of the event, held the standings lead and, despite posting a 2-5 today, held on for the win with a low score of 12 points. Rosenfield had come out guns blazing and took a bullet in the first race, and followed with a second-place finish while Reguero finished fourth in the first race before going on to win the final race of the series. It wasn’t enough, however, for Reguero to hold on to his place in the overall standings as Rosenfield had done enough to move up to second overall on 18 points, followed just one point back by Reguero. Canadian Development Team member Jackie Gay (Victoria, B.C.) finished 6-6 today for a total of 34 points and fourth place overall, with fellow Canadian Peter Wood (Ottawa, Ont.), who did not compete because of equipment problems, finishing fifth overall with 38 points.
“This event is the best event in the United States,” said Reguero, who had utilized the 2008 Clagett as training before representing Puerto Rico in the Paralympic Games that year. “Every time you go in the water you learn a new thing. It is really tough sailing in Newport, so training here with Mark [LeBlanc] and the other guys pushes you to the limits.” Explaining that he hoped to continue improving over the coming weeks, Reguero detailed a heavy training schedule that included the national championships in Finland and Sweden before spending a week at home preparing before travelling to London for the 2012 Paralympics.
In the two-boat SKUD-18 class, Paralympians Jen French and JP Creignou (both St. Petersburg, Fla.) were passed in the standings after Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.) and Brenda Hopkin (Fairmont Hot Springs, CAN) won the lone race in the SKUD-18. “Judy [McLennan] has done a phenomenal job,” said French about the event founder during the awards. “And the race committee went above and beyond to help us train here. It was such a great choice to come race here, and we hope to bring medals back.”
The C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Trophy for 2012 was awarded to Marc LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) for the second consecutive year. Awarded to the sailor with the best overall performance at the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta, the trophy was presented to LeBlanc, who will represent the U.S.A. at the Paralympic Games this September in the 2.4 Metre, at the conclusion of racing. LeBlanc won two of the eight races sailed, finished second in five races, and saw his worst finish, a fifth which he was able to discard, in the final race of the series.
“This regatta is a favorite of mine,” said LeBlanc during the awards presentation. “You can show up in the shirt on your back and go sailing for three days and not worry about a thing.”
The Scandone Trophy, given to the sailor exhibiting dedication and perseverance was presented to SKUD-18 crew Brenda Hopkin (Fairmont Hot Springs, CAN). The Seamanship Award was presented to 2.4 Metre sailor Audrey Kobayashi (Kingston, Ont., CAN), and the Sportsmanship Award, which is chosen by the sailors, was presented to Steve Shaw (Halifax, Nova Scotia) who was competing for the first time in both the 2.4 Metre and The Clagett Regatta.