Newport Sailor Makes US Sailing Team

NEWPORT, RI (July 1, 2013) - A three-day weekend of dense fog, strong current and shore side weather delays did not deter local SKUD sailor Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, RI) from winning a coveted spot on the U.S. Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider at this past weekend’s C. Thomas Clagett, Jr. Memorial Regatta.

The 11th annual regatta for sailors with disabilities sailed from the Sail Newport Sailing Center in Fort Adams. Thirty-six entrants raced in three classes of Paralympic boats including SKUD-18, Sonars and 2.4mR.

US Sailing designated the Clagett Regatta as a qualifier for the SKUD-18 US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider. The eighteen-foot boat will be included as a class in the next Paralympic Games which will take place in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“There was a lot on the line in this regatta, “ Everhart-Skeels said of the pressure to sail well in every race in order capture one of only two slots on the U.S. team.

“I just wanted to keep our good ‘mojo’ going and just stay focused on sailing well and not worry about what was at stake,” She added.

The eleven races over the three-day series provided a myriad of sailing conditions and challenges. Dense fog forced the Clagett Race Committee, headed by Principal Race Officer Ron Hopkins, with volunteers also from Ida Lewis Yacht Club, to delay each morning for a short time to wait for the visibility to improve enough to race.

Before getting to the start of the first race on Friday, Everhart-Skeels conquered her first challenge of the weekend when she had to quickly replace her crew who could not travel to Newport due to severe flooding in Canada. She recruited friend and sailor Gerry Tiernan (Falmouth, Maine) to step in and race although they had never sailed together before, and he, never on a SKUD previous to the regatta.

Everhart-Skeels’ new crew learned quickly however, and they finished with a first and second on the first day of racing.  By the end of the second day the team had one third and three first place wins after a gusty 15-knot day and in spite of a costly spinnaker wrap forced the team to retire without finishing a race.  

The U.S. team position started to become a reality for Everhart-Skeels on Sunday morning as she stood in first place going in to the last day of racing. Her last-minute crew rose to the occasion.

“I felt pretty good, I was very impressed with Gerry’s ability to learn the boat as quickly as he did,” she said.

However, Everhart-Skeels, was determined not to loose focus thinking about the end results, she said.

“I don’t usually look at the standings. I like to race and I like to win but I don’t like to get caught up in it because it sometimes spoils the reason why I sail,” she said.

“The last day was tricky. In the light wind we had to make a lot of adjustments,” She said.

The fellow SKUD team of Ryan Porteus (San Diego, Calif.) and Cindy Walker (Abington, Mass.) made for tough competition. The regatta win came down to the last downwind leg of the last day as the two team match-raced to the finish. After a jibe by Everhart-Skeels to cross her opponent, the Porteus/Walker team tacked for the boat end of the line, and found themselves propelled across the finish line in advantageous current. 

In the end, Everhart-Skeels, with her first and three third places on Sunday, she finished second in the regatta with only one point between her and the winner. Nevertheless she won the spot on the U.S. Team. This is Everhart-Skeels second time on the U.S. Team as she qualified in 2011 on a Sonar.

“Wow, we’re really doing this,” she thought about her team placement, as she returned to shore on Sunday afternoon.

U.S. Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider members will have the support of the national governing body, headquartered in Portsmouth, with expert coaching and financial and logistical support to participate in the 2013 Disabled World Championship this year. The event, run by the International Federation for Disabled Sailing, takes place August 25-30 in Kinsale, Cork County, Ireland.  One hundred sailors from 20 countries are also expected to compete in three classes including Sonar, SKUD 18 and 2.4mR..

Newport sailor Paul Callahan, a two-time U.S. team member in the Sonar class, could have also qualified, but he finished in third place in the regatta making him ineligible for the 2013 U.S. team. 

The team selections are made annually until the Paralympic game year and Callahan will have the opportunity again next year to qualify for the 2014 Team.

Another local sailor sail well this weekend in the 2.4mR class. Newport’s Ned Green did well and he finished second overall in the largest class of 15 2.4mR boats. For more information, visit: www.clagettregatta.org

(Thornton Cohen photo of Sarah Everhart-Skeels and Gerry Tiernan above)

Race for Newport Cup Sat.

Over 30 local boats are expected to participate in this weekend’s Café Zelda/IYAC Newport Cup race.  Since 1994, the annual race is held in Newport and boats circumnavigate Conanicut Island after a start outside of Newport Harbor.

The race is open to PHRF boats and several classes will be offered for spinnaker, non-spinnaker boats.  Organizers have also invited a One-Design class of VX-20 sailboats to enter.

Sailors may register at the International Yacht and Athletic Club (IYAC), 536 Thames St., before the skippers meeting on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.  An awards ceremony will also be held at the IYAC, on Saturday after racing.

Every year, the bowman of the first boat to finish is recognized with the Jamie Boeckel Trophy.  The award is named in memory of a talented bowman and beloved Newport sailor, Jamie Boeckel, who died in 2002 during an offshore race in Long Island Sound.

Last year’s first boat to finish – Privateer, owned by Newport sailor Ron O’Hanley, received the trophy.

Several Newport sailors are expected race including Newport’s Billy Macgowan.  Macgowan often wins the race on his custom P28 named Macx.

For more information, facebook.com/pages/Thames-St-International-Yacht-Athletic-Club.

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