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Light wind specialists shine at the Para World Sailing Championships

Light wind, tactical specialists came to the forefront on the opening day of racing at the 2017 Para World Sailing Championships as a challenging breeze tested the sailors.
The Para Worlds, held alongside Kieler Woche (Kiel Week) sailing festival in Kiel, Germany, saw more than 80 sailors from 39 nations tested by an inconsistent 6-9 knot west north westerly breeze.
Two races were completed in the Open 2.4 Norlin OD, Men's Hansa 303 and Women's Hansa 303, all One Person Keelboats open to classified sailors with minimum disabilities.
Those who thrive in light wind and sailors with their thinking caps on, constantly looking for shifts and gains on the water, moved to the head of their respective fleets.
Christopher Symonds (AUS) took two race wins in the Men's Hansa 303 with Rio 2016 Paralympian Piotr Cichocki (POL) following on both occasions.
The Australian and Polish racers hold the gold and silver positions at the early stage of the regatta. Three-time Paralympic medallist Jens Kroker (GER) follows in third overall.
In amongst a field of experienced Paralympians, Symonds' early success does not come as a surprise as he holds world and national titles in the Hansa 303.
Cichocki and Kroker fought for the medals at Rio 2016 and with their experience Symonds has noticed an increase in competition and is enjoying sharing the start line with new faces, "It's pretty special,” he paused. "When you get on the start line and you see people looking up to windward beat with just over a minute to go you know the sailors are switched on and watching. Those two guys [Cichocki and Kroker] were doing that and they're very good sailors. There's no doubt about that. To be amongst them is pretty special.
"I'm not a Paralympic sailor but I have been sailing for many years, since I was ten and I love it. My condition with Kennedy's Disease has stopped me sailing bigger boats so now I'm in the smaller boats, travelling the world and loving it.”
Symonds has dedicated his life to sailing and since the 1970s he has taken multiple honours within the sport. His wealth of knowledge is high and knows that he can not take anything for granted, much like a certain team in the America's Cup right now, "We've got a long way to go. It's like being in Team New Zealand and not getting ahead of ourselves.”
In the challenging 7-9 knot breeze, the conditions suited the lighter sailors, such as Symonds. The slightly heavier Cichocki and Kroker used their tactical nous to sail at the front of the pack.
The forecast for the rest of the week is for stronger breeze and Cichocki knows he can make the gains to overhaul Symonds, "The Australian sailed really well and he's a good sailor but I'm slightly heavier so he had some extra speed on me. The regatta is really long and we need to focus on the next day.”
In the Women's Hansa 303, France's Magali Moraines and Spanish Rio 2016 Paralympian Violeta del Reino share the lead on four points.
Moraines took the opening race win and followed up with a fourth. Del Reino sailed consistently, finishing second in both races.
Rio 2016 Paralympian Qian Yin Yap (SIN) took the day's other race win and is third overall.
Daniel Bina of the Czech Republic was the surprise package in the 2.4 Norlin OD, grabbing a first and a third to lead the 43-boat fleet.
Full of smiles after racing even the man himself could not believe his start, "I am really pleased because I never sail like that. My results are usually just in the top ten.
"Today was difficult because the wind was up and down and there was not a clear strategy to take. It's a piece of luck as well because of the shifts and if you were in the wrong place, you had no chance.”
Whether it was Bina's skill of reading the day's wind or as he puts it, "his luck” is to be told and Thursday's racing will be pivotal for him to continue with his form.
Germany's Heiko Kroger is second overall after recording a fourth and second to sit two points off Bina.
Athens 2004 and Rio 2016 Paralympic gold medallist Damien Seguin (FRA) won the second race of the day and occupies the final podium spot after two races.
Seguin spoke to World Sailing on Facebook Live after racing on the event, its importance and the quality of racing in Kiel.
Click here to watch and share the video.

Racing resumes on Thursday 22 June at 12:00 local time for the Hansa 303 fleets. The 2.4 Norlin OD fleet will commence at 13:30 local time. 
By Daniel Smith – World Sailing

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