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US Paralympic Team Headed for Rio

Pro sailor Dee Smith has qualified to represent the USA at the Rio Paralympic Games in the 2.4mR.

© 2016 Jen Edney / US Sailing Team Sperry

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

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.”

Rick Doerr, Brad Kendell and Hugh Freund of US Sailing Team Sperry won the overall title at the 2016 Para World Sailing Championships.

© Jasper van Staveren / Delta Lloyd Regatta

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.

Sailing in the SKUD-18 class, gold medalist Maureen McKinnon and Ryan Porteous punched their ticket to the Paralympic Games by just one point at the Delta Lloyd Regatta.

© Will Ricketson / US Sailing Team Sperry

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."

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