Leveling the Playing Field, One Boat at a Time

Maureen McKinnon-Tucker was twenty years old when she first learned to sail. When she met her husband Dan Tucker, a J24 racer, the two developed a tight team both on and off the water. But all of this changed for McKinnon-Tucker on a day in 1992 when she was sidelined while her husband's team went out to race in Rockland, Maine. Pushing her bicycle down to a ferry landing, McKinnon-Tucker slipped
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
maureen.int

Maureen McKinnon-Tucker was twenty years old when she first learned to sail. When she met her husband Dan Tucker, a J24 racer, the two developed a tight team both on and off the water. But all of this changed for McKinnon-Tucker on a day in 1992 when she was sidelined while her husband's team went out to race in Rockland, Maine. Pushing her bicycle down to a ferry landing, McKinnon-Tucker slipped off a seawall and fell into the sand at low tide. A 13-ft fall paralyzed her from the waist down.

A weaker woman would have run from the water. But McKinnon-Tucker slowly returned, first in kayaks because the J24s in which she once competed were now uncomfortable and challenging. The Freedom 20s, boats designed for disabled sailors, proved too tame for the competitive racer. But once she was suited in a Sonar, McKinnon-Tucker found a platform in which she could not only compete, but also excel. Thirteen years after her fall, McKinnon-Tucker went on to be the first woman to compete on the US Paralympic team, eventually becoming the first female Paralympian to bring home the gold in the 2008 Beijing games.

maureen

Perhaps McKinnon-Tucker's greatest achievement does not lie in bringing home the gold, but instead within proving that "disabled" and "able-bodied" sailors can compete in performance sailboats on the same level. Her commitment to the sailing has opened up the sport to other highly competitive sailors who might otherwise be discouraged about racing in a disabled category.

Mark LeBlanc is one such sailor. The 25-year old grew up sailing in his native New Orleans and went on to drive a successful Paralympic campaign in the 2.4mR, eventually qualifying as an alternate for the Beijing games. The experience pushed him to elevate his career further, and he is currently pursuing a 2012 Paralympic campaign.

mark2

LeBlanc's boat is the 2.4mR, the "world's smallest keel boat" designed specifically for singlehanding. Often referred to as a "scaled down 12-meter," the boats are popular among dinghy sailors in Northern Europe, while they've gained the most attention in the States for their accessibility for disabled sailors. The boats are popular around Shake-A-Leg in Miami, but are somewhat of a sasquatch elsewhere. McKinnon-Tucker's group, Piers Park Sailing Center in Boston, seeks to change that perception by offering a weekend of demos on the sailboats with Mark LeBlanc and another Paralympian hopeful Hugh Freund offering coaching expertise and advise. McKinnon-Tucker is back in the game, preparing for her next campaign as well.

Those who know her well realize that this is less of a challenge for her than a destiny. At SAIL, we are proud to be part of Team Maureen.

Sailors interested in learning more about Olympic and Paralympic campaigning are encouraged to attend the event, as well as sailors who are simply interested in checking out fascinating, challenging boats. For more information, click here.

Related

Headsail

Ask Sail: Silencing A Rattling Headsail

Q: Our Pearson 26 has a 110-percent jib that tends to rattle very noisily at the top hank. We only bought the old boat recently, but it must have been happening for a long time, since there’s a deep groove worn inside that bronze hank. The jib has an unusually large and wide ...read more

Alerion2048x

Alerion Yachts 33, the 90 Minute Get Away

Easy to sail, luxurious, and swift; the Alerion 33 is the solution to your busy life. The intuitive, simple rig design, easy set-up, and put-away mean there’s no need to wait for crew to enjoy a weekend, a day, or an hour out sailing. Her beauty and comfort are evident in the ...read more

anchor

Know how: Ground Tackle

Your ground tackle is like a relationship—the more you care for it, the longer it will last. So, how do you enhance the relationship? First up, think of the accommodations—a damp, salt-rich, often warm environment, just the kind of thing to encourage corrosion. What can be done? ...read more

DSC_7522

Boat Review: Beneteau Oceanis 46.1

The Beneteau sailboat line has long represented a kind of continuum, both in terms of the many models the company is offering at any given moment and over time. This does not, however, in any way diminish the quality of its individual boats. Just the opposite. Case in point: the ...read more

shutterstock_1016585167

Cruising: Memories Made by People You Meet

Steve greeted my boyfriend, Phillip, and me as soon as we tied Plaintiff’s Rest, our 1985 Niagara 35, up to his dock on one of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. He was tall, cheerful and clad in a hodge-podge of clothes one might wear to paint a house: oversized, grungy and old. ...read more

_98A7540

Cruising: Dogs Afloat

We dog owners understand the general expectations of ourselves in public places, like picking up after Fido and keeping him on a leash. There are, however, certain places where additional unspoken rules or expectations may apply—as in harbors or marinas. If you sail with your ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Log the glass  A week ago I set out after breakfast on a 50-mile passage. The day’s forecast via the internet was for 14-18 knots. It never happened, and I spent the entire trip adjusting my genoa ...read more