Former Marinite Dee Smith, who now lives in Annapolis, won selection to the American Paralympics team based on the results of the US Sailing Paralympic Athlete Selection Series in the 2.4mR one-person keelboat. Smith, 63, is a veteran of the America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and many other high-level racing programs over the course of his career. Rio 2016, to be held September 7-18, will be his first Paralympic Games.
While serving as general manager and tactician for the South African Team Shosholoza America’s Cup challenge in 2007, Smith was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, a condition that also impacted his spine. Doctors gave Smith less than a year to live, but he was able to beat the odds. However, he was left with significantly reduced mobility as a result of spinal damage. A subsequent bicycle accident also left him with a permanent injury to one of his legs.
“The last nine years have been pretty much a challenge for me,” said Smith. “I came out of that just wanting to go sailing. Now that I’ve qualified, I can think about getting better.” Smith finished fifth out of 30 boats at the Delta Lloyd Regatta, the World Championships for the Para classes held at Medemblik, the Netherlands, on May 24-28. Learn more at www.deesail.com/2-4m-campaign.
Rick Doerr of New Jersey, Brad Kendell of Florida, and Hugh Freund of Maine earned selection to the team in the Sonar three-person keelboat. The trio fought off Britain, Australia, and Norway to win the world title in Medemblik. “This was a very tight regatta," noted Kendell. "The world’s best were here, and we are so happy with what we have done and where we are right now.”
In the two-person SKUD-18, the selection for Rio went down to the final race of the Delta Lloyd Regatta. Ryan Porteous of San Diego and Maureen McKinnon of Marblehead, MA, earned their place on the team over Sarah Everhart-Skeels and Cindy Walker. This will be the second Paralympics for McKinnon, who won gold in the SKUD-18 at Beijing 2008 with the late Nick Scandone. Rio 2016 will be the first Paralympics for Porteous, a student at UC Santa Barbara.
The future of sailing at the Paralympic Games remains cloudy. Since the International Paralympic Committee dropped sailing from the 2020 Games in Tokyo, work has focused on reinstating sailing for 2024. "One of the things we are working toward is maybe a change in equipment and event format," said Paralympic coach Betsy Alison, chairman of the Para World Sailing Committee. "In our application for 2024, we’ll see more stadium-type racing. I don’t know the exact format yet, but we want to make it more understandable to the public, more visually appealing, and that is all in concert with the IPC’s strategic plan."
Allison believes that the IPC is currently looking favorably upon sailing. "They are happy with the initiatives that we have been taking. I can honestly say I am very hopeful that sailing has a strong possibility of being included in the 2024 program provided we keep moving forward the way we have."
Given the demands for media attention from presidential politics, the NBA Finals and a zillion other hot topics, you may have missed the fact that today is World Oceans Day, defined as "a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future."
If you’re up on the many dire challenges to the oceans of our watery planet, you probably feel that there’s much to celebrate. But it should be at least a wee bit comforting to know that people all over the world are taking steps to live up to this year’s theme: Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.
Check out the official website of this United Nations-recognized event and you’ll see all sorts of ways that concerned ocean-lovers are getting involved at a grassroots level to improve the ‘health’ of our oceans.
If you’re actively involved in a current World Oceans Day project, we’d love to hear about it and see a few photos.
Latitude’s old friend Pete Passano, formerly of the Bay Area and one of the most accomplished open-ocean singlehanded sailors in the world, forwarded us the accompanying photos of the Dutch having fun on boats on the Amstel River near Amsterdam during last year’s SAIL Amsterdam.
Founded in 2000 to celebrate big classic sailing ships, SAIL Amsterdam is held every five years and — as you can see from the photos — has been a wild success. In last year’s event well over 100 classic sailing vessels in excess of 100 feet — schooners, barkentines, Dutch tjalks, clippers, cutters, brigs, fully-rigged ships, kits, luggers, cogs, frigates — participated. A number were more than 100 years old, and many were more than 40 years old. As you can tell, they attracted a lot of spectator boats.
Wild, no? As we’ve mentioned before, the Dutch are crazy about sailing, even though they don’t have the warmest weather or longest season for it.
We were glad to hear from Pete, for if we’re not mistaken, he’s now 85. He started his recreational sailing career when he and his wife sailed a 35-ft boat from the Netherlands to San Francisco Bay. Pete and Bob van Blaricom later built the 39-ft steel boat Sea Bear together on a San Rafael canal. Eventually Pete bought Bob out.
In 2007 Passano was awarded the Cruising Club of America’s prestigious Blue Water Medal for his 125,000 miles — back then — of ocean sailing. One of Pete’s roughest passages was on the way from New Zealand to Maine via Cape Horn. While he was 250 miles west of the Horn, the barometer dropped 15 millebars in six hours. Passano reports the wind blew at "hurricane force 12" for over 20 hours and Sea Bear was knocked down several times. But both Bob and Sea Bear survived without much damage, and he continued on to Rio, Antigua, Bermuda and Maine, where he has lived for quite a few years now.