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USSTAG SKUD-18 Sailors Whitman and Dorsett Take Silver 
IFDS World Championship in Athens, Greece - Final
By Betsy Alison
Paralympic Coach, US SAILING Team AlphaGraphics

In a close contest between Great Britain and the USA in the SKUD-18 class at the 2009 IFDS World Championship in Athens, Greece, the American duo of Scott Whitman (Brick, N.J.) and Julia Dorsett (West Chester, Pa.) finished the series with a podium finish and silver medals. Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell of the U.K. sailed a solid series with a string of firsts to claim the World Championship title. Only a single point separated the two teams going into the final day of racing with two races to be sailed.

In the first race of the day, shifting winds allowed places to change several times during the contest. At one point, USA was in first and the Brits in fourth, but as has been evidenced this week, being in the lead was not necessarily an indication of victory. As things turned out, the British nipped out Whitman/Dorsett to take the win and pretty much seal the deal.

In the second race of the day, the Americans needed to win the race with the British fourth or worse to have any chance at the title. Staying true to form in this event, Rickham and Birrell controlled the race from the start to convincingly become the new World Champions.

Once again, the Sonar fleet saw tight racing, and as the SSW breeze tried to settle in, the sailors found the course quite challenging to master. The German team, led by skipper Jens Kroker, needed to put some points on the leading team from Greece on the final day of racing, as they were trailing by two points after being disqualified from a race on Saturday evening. In a close contest, the Germans finished second to Greece’s third in the race, making the final race of the series a do-or-die matter for both teams. USSTAG sailors Doerr/McKinnon-Tucker/Kendell had a disappointing 8th , taking them out of medal contention.

The biggest surprise today came from the Israeli team who were the Paralympic Gold Medalists here in Athens in 2004. Dror Cohen/Arnon Efrati/Benm Vexler won both races to vault them from fifth to a silver medal podium finish. In the final race, the Germans did a text book job of starting near the pin, taking the shift across the bow of the Greeks and protecting their second place finish around the race course. The American team worked some magic on the final beat of the race and held onto to third to finish the series in fifth. Their eighth place finish in the race allowed the Greeks to hold onto the bronze medal just nipping out the Norwegians in fourth.

Consistency was the name of the game in the Sonar fleet. Except for their DSQ, the Germans had all top five finishes. In fact, the top four teams had strong finishes in the top five or six during the entire series. Small mistakes resulted in lost places with little chance for recovery. The standard and quality of the sailing was worthy of a world championship, and it is wonderful to see such close racing in this fleet. The top four were only separated by four points: GER 21; ISR (Cohen) 23; GRE 24; NOR 25. USA in fifth (32 points) was only a point ahead of the second Israeli team.

In the 2.4mR fleet, Theirry Schmitter from NED convincingly won the regatta with 15 points in eight races, with Heiko Kroeger of Germany taking the silver and Helena Lucas of GBR the bronze. Top North American was Bruce Millar (CAN) in ninth.

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IFDS World Championship in Athens, Greece - Day Three
By Betsy Alison
Paralympic Coach, US SAILING Team AlphaGraphics

After thunderstorms rocked the venue at the IFDS Worlds delaying racing for several hours, all three fleets took to the water for day 3 of the championship. Winds started in the northern quadrant but died away to be replaced by a nice westerly breeze that was good enough to just get in two races before it died for the day.

The SKUD-18 racing is very tight at this World Championship. The British team of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell crossed the finish line in first both times, but suffered a DSQ in race #5 for a weather mark incident. USSTAG's Whitman and Dorsett moved up to 1st in that fifth race and took second in the last race of the day. GBR is leading the fleet with 7 points, followed by the Americans with 9 and CAN with 12.

In the Sonar fleet, Greek sailor Vasilis Cristoforou and his local team took the lead in race #4 and never let go followed closely by the Israeli team of Yakov/Baroda/Zehavi in second and USSTAG's Doerr/McKinnon-Tucker/Kendell. In race #5, John Twomey from Ireland bounced back from a bad first race to take line honors. Dror Choen fron ISR was second followed by Jens Kroker GER and GBR's John Robertson. Alexander Wang-Han was DSQ'd in a weather mark incident to hand the Norwegians their throw out for the series. They have consistently posted finishes in the top 5. After 5 races, the Germans lead with 10 points, Greece tied on 12 points with ISR (Yakov); NOR with 14, USA 15, ISR (Cohen) 17 and IRL 19,

The racing is so tight in the Sonar fleet that multiple overlaps and crowded mark rounding are the norm. Consistent performance on the course is keeping the fleet condensed in scoring and the regatta is still anyone's prize to take. We are only half way through the racing, since the organizers decided to use the reserve day, Saturday, for racing. It is still possible for them to get in a full complement of racing by Sunday afternoon when World Champions in all three classes are crowned.

Racing continues through Sunday. Stay tuned. Results:

IFDS World Championship in Athens, Greece - Day Two
US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Has Mixed Bag of Results
By Betsy Alison
Paralympic Coach, US SAILING Team AlphaGraphics

Teams awoke to northerly breezes and rain today on the second day of the IFDS World Championship in Athens, Greece. Concerned about conditions deteriorating during the day, the Race Committee sent the three fleets out for racing.

The Sonar fleet started first today in a 6 to 9 knot northerly coming off the Athens shoreline. Two boats (ITA and GER) started near the pin end of an enormous starting line and led the fleet for most of the race. There were several cases of sailing towards wrong marks, which had an effect on positions. USSTAG’s Sonar skipper Rick Doerr and his teammates Maureen McKinnon-Tucker and Brad Kendell caught a few bad breaks and got closed out at a mark, only to end up eighth across the line. Local Greek favorite, Vasilis Christoforou, who had been in the top 4, had a steering failure and ended up retiring from the race. Germany's Jens Kroker took the win, followed by ISR 13, IRL and NOR.

In the second race of the day, USA's Doerr and crew rallied to take the lead at the top mark. They had a tough time holding off GRE, as Christoforou took the win followed by Shimon Ben Yakov of Israel and Doerr.

A third race was started but was later abandoned on the third leg as the wind died and a major shift to the east impacted the fleet. With three races completed for the Sonar fleet, consistency has proved the major factor with GER (Kroker) in first, NOR (Wang-Han) in second, ISR (Yakov) in third and USA (Doerr) in 4th.

In the SKUD-18s, USSTAG's duo of Scott Whitman and Julia Dorsett took a couple of serious "hits" today. They finished a solid second in the first race sailed, with GBR (Rickham/Birrel) winning the race. In the second race of the day, the PRO decided abruptly to change the order of start from Sonar to SKUD, catching the American team off-guard and late for the start. The two British teams finished 1-2 in that race, with Whitman/Dorsett climbing back to 3rd.

Like the Sonar fleet, the Race Committee started another race for the SKUD fleet. On the third leg of a six leg race, the wind died three quarters of the way down the run, collapsing spinnakers on the boats as a 90-100 degree shift to the east tried to fight the northerly. With the fleet foundering and positions inverting, the RC PRO made the controversial call to shorten instead of abandon the race. John McRoberts of CAN was the beneficiary of that decision taking first in the race, followed by GBR's Rickham in second and Cogswell in third.

Now, with four SKUD races completed, Britain's Rickham and Birrell lead the standings, followed by USA Whitman/Dorsett in second, and CAN McRoberts/Hopkins in third.

The 2.4s had two races today, and Netherland's Theirry Schmitter continues to retain the lead in the fleet. With a 1-2-3 in his three races, his consistent sailing is paying off. Heiko Kroker of GER is in second place, just three points back, and GBR's Helena Lucas in third. Canadian Bruce Millar is currently in 11th.

Racing continues through Sunday. Stay tuned. Results:

IFDS World Championship in Athens, Greece - Day One
By Betsy Alison
Paralympic Coach, US SAILING Team AlphaGraphics

US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics posted a great first day at the 2009 International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) World Championship in Athens, Greece. US sailors proved they have the goods in Race #1: Starting first of the three fleets in an 8-10 knot NWly breeze, Scott Whitman and Julia Dorsett led the SKUD-18 fleet at the first mark and extended their lead around the outer loop of a trapezoid course to win big. Great Britain and Canada finished second and third respectively.

Rick Doerr, with teammates Maureen McKinnon-Tucker and Brad Kendell, did a great job navigating a shifty race course, seeing shifts as big as 20+ degrees trading places at mark roundings with Norway, Greece, and Germany. The Sonars also sailed an outer trapezoid course with the fleet having close to a photo finish on the final short reach with Norway just nipping out Germany and the USA.

Though the Race Committee tried their best to get off another race, the unstable winds of the northerly began to fight with the sea breeze forcing an abandonment of any more racing for the day.

USSTAG members look forward to another good day on the water as racing continues Thursday through Sunday. Tomorrow's preliminary forecast is for light northerly winds turning into a possible sea breeze. Stay tuned.