Dee Smith: winding up for the Paralympics

America's Cup veteran Dee Smith would never have thought he'd find himself competing at the Paralympics. At least, not until a little more than a year ago when he found himself embarking on a campaign in the 2.4mR for Rio 2016. Here's Dee's final round-up before battle commences on Guanabara Bay



I am flying to Huston for processing on my way to Rio for the Paralympic games.  Many things are going through my head.  I have been on this Road to Rio for 18 months now and it has been a crash course on how to get competitive in the 2.4 class.  The class has some amazing sailors that have been at it for a long time.  The development has never stopped and I expect a very tight regatta in Rio.

There are so many people that has helped me make the team and get me ready for the event.  Though all my sailing, I have always thought no matter how big the circus is, it is just another yacht race and should be sailed in the same way, in order to do well.  But as the time gets closer, I am feeling the importance to this regatta.  Making the USA Team.  Representing my country.  But added to this, is sailing with the world’s best and the Para movement.  This is special and something I have not done before.  It is a honor, and I will do my best.


My trip in July was over 22 days long, training with both an old friend and 2.4 experienced Jeff Madrigali, as well as Brazilian coach Maru Urban.  Having Jeff in Rio gave me the opportunity for 2 boat testing using Kanaloa against Ted Green’s 2.4. which I have been extremely fortunate to train on for the past year.

We were able to test out a possible break through in sail design, rig tune, boat setup and re-visit some sailing techniques.  As a result I am feeling more confident going into the Paragames next week. It has allowed me to trust my speed for the first time and be able to keep my head out of the boat to sail in Rio’s tricky conditions.  We worked on currents, tidal variations, weather and geographical elements on the 2 Olympic race courses every day for up to 6 hours each day. I am ready.

I am sure you have heard the stories about the on going problems in Rio.  It is not perfect down there but there will be Olympics and Paralympic Games, and there will be medals won and lost for Team USA. Our job is to keep the distractions to a minimum and make sure we do all we can to have a good regatta.  I set up a plan with the help from my coaches a few months ago on how to achieve this, and I feel I am on schedule.  The three training sessions in Rio have been very positive.  The work we have done to the boat concentrated on little things that hopefully will add up to an advantage.  We have replaced 90% of the stainless screws in the boat with titanium ones.   Mike Beasley of Beasley Marine built a very nice cleat table that has made the boat much easier to sail and is quite a bit lighter. Jay Herman has let me use his milling machine at Annapolis Rigging to make a new stem fitting out of titanium.  I have replaced all the rigging.  Donnie Brennan, Team USA Boatwright has replaced the quick repair job from Medemblik with a piece made out of the mold sent from  Finland.  This was essential work as Kanaloa was overweight after the first repair job.  We are still analyzing, and looking for anything that will help make the boat lighter and more trustworthy, faster and easier to sail.
The first day Jeff and I went sailing we were joined by Torben and Lars Grael on their grandfather's 6 meter.  This boat won silver in the 1928 Olympics....
August 8th I went to Rio again carrying  9 of the 13 ordered new sails down to Rio, 5 of which we will be measured in.  I have ordered 2 of everything, and have 3 test sails which have evolved from my last 2 training sessions.  I feel our sail, rig program is very good.  These huge gains would not have been possible without the help from Quantum Sails, Dimension Polyant USA,  and  technical help from Hall Spars.   To my knowledge, it is the  only minimum weight 2.4 mast with more metal in the section.  This equals a lighter stiffer rig which produces a tighter head stay.
On this trip, I had 2 more days of sailing to decide and finalize some very important sail decisions.  13th August the tides were the same as the tides for our Paragames regatta in September.  I watch the Olympic sailing races from the top of Sugar Loaf through the same tidal period for our races in September. I learned  a lot watching from above, and seeing it all go down with my own eyes.

If I sound excited, it is because I am.  I can’t remember having this much time to prepare for such an important event.  I cannot thank you enough for your trust and allowing me to have the best opportunity to represent our country and hopefully bring some metal home.  I will not stop working toward this goal till the last race is over.  I am fully aware that my journey to this place has been short, and I hope I have had enough time on the water to execute the job.  I am finally starting to feel prepared which is a good feeling to have. I know I cannot take anything for granted. When you sail in an event like this there is nothing that is for sure in sailing against such great competitors in conditions like Rio. One day at a time.

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