With the Paralympic Games rapidly approaching, Report On Rio will preview every event that has a Canadian team competing in Brazil — featuring past results, schedules, rosters, and expectations.
Six Canadian mariners are ready to navigate the waters of Rio de Janeiro’s Marina da Glória with a desire to build upon their country’s solid competitive legacy in Paralympic sailing.
Canada ranks sixth among all nations with a total three medals — one gold and two bronze — in the 16-year history of sailing being a competitive sport at the Games.
Headlining the 2016 team is 46-year-old Paul Tingley. The Halifax, Nova Scotia native, who is appearing at his fifth Games, is Canada’s most decorated para-sailor with a gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Games operating the one-person keelboat (2.4 metres), and a bronze award as a member of the Sonar crew at the 2000 Sydney Games alongside David Williams and Brian MacDonald.
Tingley decided to return to the Sonar watercraft after narrowly missing the podium in the men’s singles competition four years ago. Scott Lutes (Mahone Bay, N.S.) and Logan Campbell (Saskatoon, Sask.) — both members of the 2012 Sonar crew with Bruce Millar— decided to join forces with Tingley. This threesome has gelled into a cohesive unit over the past four years and appear primed to shine at the second largest multi-sports festival in the world.
John McRoberts (Victoria, B.C.) is the other past Canadian sailing medalist competing at the Rio regatta. The four-time Paralympian and his teammate, Stacie Louttit, finished third in the two-person keelboat (SKUD 18) race in China eight years ago. He also finished on top of the podium in the men’s crewboat competition when sailing was a demonstration sport at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
Joining the grizzled veteran on this competitive voyage in Rio is his wife Jackie Gay (Victoria, B.C.), who is making her Paralympic debut. Gay, born in Birmingham, England, was in the hunt for a qualification spot at Beijing with her British teammate Allan Smith.
Three-time Paralympian Bruce Millar (Victoria, B.C.) rounds out this veteran-laden Canadian contingent. He finished ninth in the 2.4-metre boat race at the 2004 Athens Games, and 10th with Lutes and Campbell in the Sonar boat battle in London.
Paralympic sailing will be hosted from Sept. 12-17, with every medal being handed out on the last day of the competition.
Road to Rio:
All six Canadian sailors qualified for the Rio Games at the 2014 International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) World Championships.
It was the Sonar crew that led the way with a silver-medal winning performance in a 18-team competition. Tingley, Lutes and Campbell were just shy of beating the French crew of Bruno Jourden, Nicolas Vimont-Vicary and Eric Flaguel.
McRoberts and Gay attained a berth at the Games by finishing within the top five in the two-person keelboat race. They were close to attaining a podium finish, but they ultimately finished behind the Australian, British and Italian SKUD 18 tandems.
Millar’s eighth place result at the 2014 Worlds was enough to lock down the final qualification spot available at the competition for 2.4-metre boat skippers. The Canadian was fortunate two teams from Great Britain finished in the top seven, which meant one of those quota positions had to be surrendered to him as each nation is only allowed to enter one team per race.
Meet the Teams:
In an interview with Report on Rio back in June, Tingley attributed great team chemistry as the reason he, Lutes and Campbell have ascended to as high as fourth in the international rankings in 2016 (they are currently ranked seventh).
This trio worked at forming a strong bond by being inseparable whenever they travel for a competition. They always take the same flight, sleep in the same hotel room and eat every meal together.
“We’ve had to start at ground zero getting to know each other and working together, and it takes time,” said Tingley. “We’re still always trying to get better.”
Clearly defined roles in the boat for each member of the team has also aided their quest in becoming an in sync unit. As captain, Tingley steers the boat and makes the major tactical decisions. Lutes, the crew’s rig master, is responsible for making adjustments to this apparatus in order to get the boat moving fast. Campbell, as sail-trimmer, concentrates on manipulating the main sails to create more speed.
While McRoberts and Gay were billed as an ideal sailing twosome well before they teamed up after London, they were not automatically convinced that teaming up would be a fruitful move for their marriage.
“We were both reluctant at first so we let some time go by,” McRoberts admitted in an interview with Report on Rio in July. “One day we looked at each other and said, ‘you know, what’s the worst that can happen? We can try this but if it doesn’t work out we can’t stop.’ We weren’t afraid to try.”
Gay agreed that they both carefully weighed the benefits and risks prior to committing to this decision.
“We knew it was a risk,” Gay said. “Obviously our relationship is more important than sailing and we always knew that. We always said to each other that if it’s not working out then we would stop.”
Their partnership is definitely working. They won the 2013 Sail Canada Team of the Year award in their first year racing on the water together, and they have proven to be a consistent medal threat at international competitions.
Millar enters the Rio Games displaying great seafaring form as he steered his way to silver at the 2016 Miami Open regatta back in January. The 55-year-old began sailing when he was 10-years-old and living on Toronto island. According to his profile on the Canadian Paralympic Committee website, he is a lifelong sailor because he enjoys “the challenge sailing provides. It gives him self-satisfaction and friendship while allowing him to see the world.
Projecting the results of regattas is a tricky proposition. There is perhaps no other Paralympic event where luck can play a big part in determining the winner. No one can predict what team or individual will earn the wind’s favour on any given race day. Weather conditions can propel an underdog team to victory and take down proven champions.
The Sonar crew arguably provides Canada with its best opportunity to finish on top of the heap considering Tingley, Lutes and Campbell finished first overall at the highly-competitive Miami World Cup. They also won bronze at the 2015 World Sailing Cup.
McRoberts and Gay are also capable of charting a course to the podium as they finished third at the Garda Trentino Olympic Welcome Week in Italy.
Millar is a longer shot to win a medal considering he has not been able to crack the top eight in either of his previous two Paralympic appearances, however a breakout performance is definitely within this veteran’s reach.
Photo Credit: Canadian Paralympic Committee