Para World Sailing excellence to the very end
Light southerly winds awaited
competitors on the last day of the Para World Sailing Championships conducted
by the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria in Williamstown, Australia.
Under bright sunny skies, competitors relished the easier conditions on Port
Phillip after two very hard days of strong breezes and big waves.
Although Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch had the Para Worlds all wrapped up
prior to the final race, there was no hint of complacency in the team.
During a pre-race delay while the race committee waited for the breeze to
settle, the Australians spent their time adjusting the rig for today's
lighter weather, testing the result and tuning again. Most other teams
took the opportunity to simply relax and sail around the starting area. It
was no surprise then, when the Australians burst away from the start line and
quickly established a break on the rest of the fleet. They extended that lead
throughout to finish well clear – an emphatic conclusion to a brilliant
campaign for the World champions.
The Polish crew of Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki would have been pleased to
score another second to add to yesterday's result, which elevated them to
fifth spot on the leader board. The Singapore pair of Jovin Tan and Desiree
Lim scored a third place today, while the British team of Alexandra Rickham
and Niki Birrell sailed a steady race to finish fourth today and cement their
second place in the championship, well clear of the Italian pair of Marco
Gualandris and Marta Zanetti, whose seventh today was good enough to maintain
their spot on the podium.
A delighted Niko Salomaa from Finland broke away from the chasing pack in the
final lap of the 2.4mR fleet today, followed by the very consistent British
sailor Megan Pascoe and Austria's Sven Reiger.
All interest centred on the Frenchman Damien Seguin today. Leading on
points from Germany's Heiko Kroeger, he kept the German in his sights
throughout and clinched the world title with a buffer of seven points, with
Kroeger in second place. Third was Australia's Matt Bugg, who said
afterwards that last night's nightmare of Britain's Helena Lucas winning the
last race while he languished back in fortieth almost came true, when he was buried
in the middle of the pack while Lucas was among the leaders. He found
his way back however, his fourteenth place good enough to hold the British
sailor out by just two points.
The Australian Sonar crew of Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell
Boaden had been dominant in the early part of the regatta but struggled in
races 7, 8, 9 and 10 to be bumped off the top of the leaderboard. In
theory, a good result in today's final race could redeem the position, but it
would also rely on other boats in the race. Starting well today and showing
good boat speed, the Australian crew were in the leading bunch in the early
stages, with the British team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve
Thomas hot on their heels. The Israeli combination of Dror Cohen, Arnon
Elfrati and Shimon Ben Yakov managed to break away from the pack and went on
for a very comfortable win by a margin of three minutes. The American
team of Rick Doerr, Bradley Kendell and Hugh Freund led the trailing bunch,
ahead of the Australians.
Following the race, the Australians lodged a request for the re-opening of a
protest from race 4, in which they suffered damage following a collision with
Israel. The Israeli boat executed its penalty turns and avoided
disqualification and the Australian boat was not granted redress. After a
lengthy consideration of the detail, the jury allowed the boat to accept
either average points or retain their second place for the race – effectively
confirming the status quo. In a fine gesture of sportsmanship, the
Australians rushed over to the British crew to congratulate them immediately
after emerging from the jury room.
The consensus among both competitors and officials is that this was a
wonderful regatta. It was certainly well run, and the wide range of
conditions encountered ensured fair competition for all.
Several athletes will remain in Williamstown for the next ten days with
several crews competing at Sailing World Cup Melbourne. From thereon in it's
into 2016, Paralympic year, and sailors will have their eye on the 2016 Para
World Sailing Championships in Medemblik, the Netherlands along the way.
By Bernie Kaaks
Attention Sailing Organizations & PR Agencies:
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