SKUD 18: Maybe the boat needs a better name
Published on March 4th, 2013
Jennifer French, who claimed the silver medal in the doublehanded SKUD 18 event at the 2012 Paralympic Games, was honored last week as the recipient of US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. Her award makes Jen the first female to be recognized for her disabled sailing achievements, but what she would really like now is to go mix it up on the able-bodied race course.
Designed by Julian Bethwaite and selected in 2005 as the new two-person boat for the 2008 Paralympic Games this summer, the SKUD18 continues to fly below the radar. “The 2.4 and the Sonar both began with able-bodied racing; they each had established classes before they became Paralympic boats,” explained French. “But the SKUD 18 was just the opposite. It has been harder to build on the able-bodied side; that’s the crux that the boat needs to overcome.”
Maybe it’s the boat’s name. The Urban Dictionary defines Skud as: 1) A person that appears attractive from far away, but when seen closer is actually ugly; 2) A derogatory reference to someone or something; or 3) A spliff with only tobacco at the beginning, the rest being purely marijuana. None of these references seem to have great marketing qualities.
“It is remarkable that this boat is only used for disabled sailing,” remarked Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck, who reviewed the boat in 2008. “It has all the elements of a skiff with the benefit of being lead assisted. With a tube-launched asymmetrical spinnaker and a modified high performance 29er stayed rig, the boat is fast and fun to sail. For people learning how to sail, the fixed seats eliminate the awkwardness that new sailors experience when moving around in a boat. For the daysailor, add surround sound and drink holders, and the SKUD 18 is speedy way to tool around the harbor. And for the aging keelboat sailor it provides the dinghy experience without all the athleticism needed.”
Interestingly, the SKUD’s commitment to disabled sailing may also become its detriment. “It is a fun boat to sail, but what I dearly missed while doing the campaign is that it is not an open class,” said French. “I want to be able to compete against able-bodied people too. But what the boat did introduce me to was the fun of sailing with an asymmetrical spinnaker. Once you sail with that configuration you kind of get addicted to it. However, now I am looking for the next able-bodied class I can participate in. That’s what makes sailing so unique for people with disabilities; we can go out and race against able bodied people and be treated the same.”
Does French have aspirations for the 2016 Paralympic Games? “I am taking a break right now. The SKUD was a reminder of how important open sailing was to me, so that’s what I have been doing lately. I have been doing some beach cat sailing, and I have been checking out the J/70. What I need to do is take a look at the available options for me.”
Rolex award ceremony video: