For the first time in more than 10 years, a New Zealand Paralympic class Sonar team has entered a major regatta. David Barnes, Rick Dodson and Andrew May are a hot team to watch for at the Miami Olympic Class Regatta which starts on January 27th.
Known as Team “Rio Gold” this team of individually accomplished sailors have recently started training in Auckland in the Etchell Keelboats, as New Zealand does not yet have any of the three person Paralympic class Sonar keelboats in the country. This will be their first regatta together, and they will be sailing in a fleet of ten boats from seven countries, and in the mix are several Paralympic medallists.
David Barnes will be team helmsman; you may remember him as the skipper of KZ1 Yacht in the 1988 Americas Cup that was defeated by Dennis Connor’s Stars & Stripes Catamaran. Before this, he was three time 470 World Champion, and International 12 Meter world champion and among other yachting accomplishments in 1973 he got ‘the double’ Tanner and Tauranga Cup in the P class.
Mainsheet man Rick Dodson comes from a strong background at the World Championship level in the OK dinghy and Finn which progressed to success in big keelboat events such as skippering the 1986 and 1987 ‘Exador’ win of the Kenwood Cup, and several wins as skipper for the Admirals Cup and One Ton World Cup. He was part of the 1995 challenge Team NZ that won the Americas Cup, and was again on board in 2000 as strategist.
Two time Paralymian Andrew May joins David and Rick as bow man; he raced in the Sonar at the 1996 Summer Paralympics when sailing was a demonstration sport, and then in 2000 he sailed the single handed 2.4mR and finished fifth. One of Andrew’s biggest accomplishments was in 2009, he won the inaugural Kiwi Cup, the IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship in the Single Person Keelboat, and Access Liberty Open World Championship.
Both David and Rick were diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the late 1990’s – 2000, and have since stayed involved in sailing in less physical roles such as team leadership and tactical roles. After watching the 2012 Paralympics they were inspired to find a third crew person and act on their desire to win- it is stronger than ever.
The Miami OCR finishes on February 1st, 2013.