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British Sonar trio crowned Para World Champions

on 03-12-2015 09:10

Great Britain claimed gold on the final day of the Para World Sailing Championships in Melbourne on Thursday (3 December), with John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas closing out a hard-fought victory in the Sonar class.

The three-time Paralympians had had a long wait for their World Championship hat-trick, having last claimed Worlds golds in 2006 and 2005. 

But on the final day of the six-day regatta, and in the one final race to be staged on Port Phillip Bay on Thursday, Robertson, Stodel and Thomas did enough to edge victory by a single point over Australia’s erstwhile series leaders Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell Boaden. 

They add their gold to the silver already secured by SKUD duo Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell on Wednesday.

 “We’ve missed out a few times over the last few years. This year’s been a lot of hard work to try and make big gains. Our goal this year was to win the Worlds so to have it there for real is just superb.” John Robertson

“It feels just amazing,” said a delighted helm Robertson. “We’ve missed out a few times over the last few years. This year’s been a lot of hard work to try and make big gains. Our goal this year was to win the Worlds so to have it there for real is just superb.” 

“It was a stressful race but we pulled it out the bag and we’re really happy,” Colchester’s Stodel added of the final race. 

"We had a big discussion pre-start about what we were going to do, we went out and stuck to it and just sailed away.” Hannah Stodel

“We’re not mad keen on the light winds but we were steady away, just took it as it was. We had a big discussion pre-start about what we were going to do, we went out and stuck to it and just sailed away.” 

The trio’s last World Championship medal – a bronze – came three years ago, and with their eyes on selection to a fourth Paralympic Games at Rio next year, Welshman Thomas admits that victory in Melbourne has provided a timely confidence boost. 

“We sat down and said we wanted to win a gold medal at the Worlds and we’ve delivered on that. Selection is still in the balance but hopefully we’ve done enough for that, and we’re a strong unit. 

“We’re getting stronger and stronger, which is going to put us in good stead for Rio.” 

“We had to bounce back quite a lot from some pretty tough positions on the race course and we’ve also just tried to enjoy it this week as well and enjoy the process. That’s probably the best bit, that we’ve seen the progress from last year to this year. The plan was put in place and we’ve delivered on that plan.” 

The trio faced an anxious wait after racing for final confirmation of their result, with the Australians seeking to overturn a jury decision from earlier in the week. 

But it ultimately proved unsuccessful, and the British team was able to finally celebrate their success. 

Stodel concluded: “It’s been an amazing year with a lot of hard work with some not so good results, so to get this now is just the right time to be peaking. Everything we’ve worked on over the past few months has been worth it. It’s really, really good and we go towards the Games with our heads held high.” 

Elsewhere in the Sonar fleet, Craig Wood, Steve Palmer and Liam Cattermole finished their regatta in 12th overall. 

In the 2.4mR event, Paralympic Champion Helena Lucas sailed a great final race to come close to upsetting the podium positions on the final day. 

In fourth place heading in to the final race and trailing the host’s Matt Bugg by 11 points, Lucas crossed fifth in the final race to Bugg’s 14th, meaning she missed out on bronze by just two points.

“It has been a really tough week. Noone likes getting their discard on the first day and the U-flag [penalty] wasn’t ideal at all,” Lucas remarked of her false start disqualification on Saturday's opening day.

“I feel like it’s been a battle the whole week and I only really feel like I got racing properly over the last couple of days. I don’t know if it’s worse getting so close to taking bronze when you just think back over the ‘if onlys’, certainly in that last race.

“But Matt sailed a brilliant regatta. He sailed really, really well and I didn’t get my finger out until towards the end and unfortunately left myself with a little bit too much to do.” 

Teammate Megan Pascoe ended her regatta in fifth overall, with a second place from the final race, while Will Street was 24th overall. 

Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell finished fourth in the final SKUD race, having already secured silver a day earlier. 

The Paralympic Classes competitors will remain in Melbourne for the ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta, which kicks off on Wednesday (9 December). 

For full results, visit http://www.topyacht.net.au/results/2015/paraworlds/

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