The sonar crew were revealed as the first members of the team by Paralympics New Zealand chief executive Fiona Allan ©Getty Images

Sailors Richard Dodson, Andrew May and Chris Sharp have been named as the first members of New Zealand’s team for the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

The trio have qualified to compete in the sonar class at the Games, which are scheduled to take place from September 7 to 18, having earned their country a quota place at the Para World Sailing Championships in December.

While they were unable to secure a podium finish in Melbourne, the team are targeting medal success later this year in the three-person keelboat event.

Dodson will bring vast experience to the team, with the 57-year-old having been the on-board strategist for New Zealand’s successful challenge at the America’s Cup in 1995 and their defence of the title in 2000.

The sailor, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997, began competing in Paralympic sailing four years ago and is hoping to seal a medal at his first Games.

“It is a real honour to be selected to represent New Zealand at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Para-sailing,” he said.

“It is the ultimate goal for any Para-athlete.

“We know it’s going to be very tough and we are ambitious, we will be competing to bring home a medal.

“We are looking forward to rewarding the selectors for their faith in us and making our country proud.”

Two-time America's Cup winner Richard Dodson will bring vast experience to the team
Two-time America's Cup winner Richard Dodson will bring vast experience to the team ©Getty Images

Dodson is due to be joined by May, a two-time Paralympian, who will be hoping to improve on his sixth place finishes at both Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.

The team is completed by Sharp, who joined the line-up after receiving a call from Dodson at the end of 2014.

“It is fantastic to announce our first selections,” said Fiona Allan, Paralympics New Zealand chief executive.

“Richard, Andrew and Chris have demonstrated that they have the potential to win a medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and Paralympics New Zealand is thrilled to have Para-sailors as part of the New Zealand Paralympic Team in Rio.”     

The team received a further boost after Paralympics New Zealand announced that shipping companies Maersk Line and Oceanbridge had jointly pledged their support.

Both businesses signed agreements to become Paralympics New Zealand’s latest sporting partners, with the partnership seeing them take charge of the shipping and handling of all equipment.

It includes the transportation of sporting equipment which has been specially designed for athletes with a disability, through to medical supplies.