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Rhode Islander proveswhy he's No. 1 in Sonar

Paul Callahan and crew win the Disabled Midwinters event.

By DAVE ELLIS
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 8, 2002


ST. PETERSBURG -- Paul Callahan of Providence, R.I., with crew Keith Burhans and Tom Brown, won the Disabled Midwinters Championship in the 23-foot Sonar class. Sailing CVS/Pharmacy, excellent work enabled the crew to come back from missing a few shifts and tactical opportunities to win five of eight races sailed off the Pier Friday-Sunday.

Callahan is top ranked in the three-person disabled sailor Sonar by the U.S. Olympic Committee after also winning the Miami Olympic Class Regatta.

"We work together very well," Callahan said. "I wish we could keep Tom Brown as a regular crew."

That is unlikely, as Brown is top ranked in the one-person 2.4-meter boat and is eyeing an Olympic berth in Athens, Greece, in 2004.

Attaining the top ranking means more than bragging rights on the road to the Games, where disabled sailing is a full medal sport. Significant travel and boat shipping expenses are defrayed to allow practice in Europe against other top disabled sailors.

John Ross-Duggan of Newport Beach, Calif., with crew Mike Ackley of Palm Harbor and Larry Kutno from Tampa, sailed his Sonar, Gaysie II, to third place. After placing first among the USA disabled sailors in the Sonar Midwinters and the National Offshore One Design regattas, Ross-Duggan stands second in the Sonar class for the Paralympics.

John Robertson and crew from Britain chartered a St. Petersburg Yacht Club boat for the chance to hone skills for his Olympic bid. After placing second he was asked what he and his crew learned during the regatta. "Use more sunscreen," he said.

Brandon's Roger Cleworth won the 2.4-meter class. He had a string of victories Friday and Saturday and traded boats with Lee Buratti of Costa Mesa, Calif., for Sunday's two heats. Buratti won both easily, making a new boat part of his budget.

Rick Doerr of Clifton, N.J., had a string of seconds, but work requirements forced him to miss Sunday, dropping him to third in the class.

Winds were strong enough to be a challenge, never dropping below 8 knots and often exceeding 15. Disabilities ranged from quadriplegics to amputees, with a numbering system ensuring that no crew has a physical advantage.

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