Newport, R.I. (June 27, 2013) – The 11th annual C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta kicked off today with the clinic sessions that are the hallmark of this event that provides training and competitive racing opportunities for sailors with disabilities. The event utilizes the same equipment as used in the Paralympic Games – the single-person 2.4 Metre, the two-person SKUD-18, and the three-person Sonar – and among the 36 competitors are a number of first-time participants who are offering a glimpse into the future of the sport.
US Disabled Sailing Team Coach Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I), who has led the coaching side of the event since its inception said: “This year at Clagett we have a lot of participants that are new to the event; many from Canada and the U.S.A., and many of them are younger sailors in their mid to late teens and early 20s. Those sailors really are the future of the Paralympic programs, not only here in the U.S.A. but also in Canada, and it will go a long way towards bolstering our collective efforts for 2016, 2020 and 2024. The Clagett’s purpose was always to support the Paralympic efforts of aspiring young sailors and we are really starting to fulfill that mission.”
Among the first-time competitors are 19-year-old Kevin Holmberg of Tampa, Fla., and 15-year-old Siobahn MacDonald of Mabou in Cape Breton, Canada. While both will be sailing solo in the 2.4 Metre class, each was introduced to the sport in very different ways. Holmberg started sailing as a child through the summer program at Tampa Yacht Club, progressing to competing on the Opti circuit, including racing previously in Newport at the 2008 Opti New England Championships, before moving into the Laser 4.7 in which he won the 2009 Midwinters East. MacDonald, on the other hand, has only been sailing a few years, drawn into the sport by cousins who wanted to try it in their small rural community. Their enthusiasm has led to the formation of the Mabou Sailing and Boating Club, and MacDonald has progressed enough in the sport that she will represent her province in the 2013 Canada Games, the biennial multi-sport event modeled after the Olympics where sailors with disabilities will make their debut in the 2.4 Metre when the games are held this August.
The coaching aspect of The Clagett is what defines it from other events. The competitors spend the first day working with their assigned coach who shares his or her expertise on boat handling, sail trim, strategy and the racing rules. The coaching team was assembled by Alison and includes world champion and Olympic sailors as well as specialized coaches: local sailmaker Bill Shore (Newport), who holds championship titles in numerous classes; 2003 Yngling Open World Champion Lee Icyda (Boulder, Colo.); Craig Guthrie (Halifax, CAN), who coached Paul Tingley to a Paralympic gold medal in 2008; and John Vandemoer (Stanford, Calif.), the head sailing coach at Stanford University whose teams have reached the national championships during his tenure.
When racing gets underway on Friday, June 28 (through Sunday, June 30), the coaches follow the action on the water, and, during post-race briefings, suggest ways to improve. The action takes place between Rose and Goat Islands, making it possible for spectators to watch from the western shore of Goat Island.