Stage set for high stakes Para Sailing World Championships
on 26-11-2015 11:34
Britain’s Paralympic sailors are anticipating the most hotly-contested World Championships of this cycle when racing gets underway at the Para Sailing World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.
The regatta, which runs from 28 November-3 December, is the final Paralympic qualification event for country spots for 2016 – and with sailing having been removed from the Paralympic Games programme for Tokyo 2020, the race for Rio has added significance in addition to the usual pressures of a world title chase.
The British Sailing Team has already secured Rio qualification across the three Paralympic classes – the one-person 2.4mR, the two-person SKUD and the three-person Sonar – with London 2012 2.4mR gold medallist Helena Lucas also having earned individual selection as the first named athlete for ParalympicsGB in April this year.
While her own 2016 berth is assured, Lucas knows this World Championship will be an important regatta in the Games build-up, with some 142 sailors from 31 nations set to compete across the three classes.
“The event will certainly be a tough and very important one with several countries and people trying to qualify for the Games, and others looking to lay down the gauntlet with less than a year to go until Rio." Helena Lucas
“The event will certainly be a tough and very important one with several countries and people trying to qualify for the Games, and others looking to lay down the gauntlet with less than a year to go until Rio. It will be an interesting one for sure!”
“It’s a World Championship, so you always have the goal to be on the podium and definitely my sights are firmly set on that,” continued the Paralympic Champion, who will race in the 51-boat one-person 2.4mR fleet in which Britain’s Megan Pascoe and Will Street will also compete.
“For me also, the regatta gives the opportunity to check in with some of my equipment and see how that’s going, and also check in with the likes of Heiko [Kroeger] and Damien [Seguin]. We haven’t all raced together since the Hyeres World Cup in April, so it would be good to see where they’re at as well.”
Five-time SKUD World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell are hoping for a sweeter finish to this year’s World Championships, with Rickham admitting that losing the world title on countback in 2014 left a ‘bitter taste’.
They’ll be racing in an 18-boat fleet – the biggest World Championship turnout for the SKUD class since 2011 in Weymouth and Portland, and Rickham says they have their eyes on the podium.
“The reality is that we always want to do well at the World Championships, especially going into the Games year,” said the 2012 bronze medallist Rickham, “but always in the back of our minds though is Rio and the bigger picture towards trying to win gold there.”
“We’ll be coming out all guns blazing and we expect others to do the same. Because of Paralympic qualification and the 2020 situation there’s a lot at stake so it will be a very interesting regatta across classes.”
“Niki and I are excited about getting the regatta started – we always are,” continued the Epsom sailor.
“It’s been six months since we last competed but we’ve had a strong training regime in the meantime so it will be interesting to measure how that training stacks up when we’re out there racing.”
The British Sailing Team has two entries among the 18-boat Sonar fleet, including the two-time World Championship winning team and three-time Paralympians John Robertson, Steve Thomas and Hannah Stodel who are feeling confident ahead of this year’s big event.
“We feel pretty well prepared – we had a lot of work done on the boat before it came out here and so that’s been really nice to turn up and have what’s almost a brand new boat and not have the usual pile of boat work to do,” Colchester’s Stodel explained.
“We’re feeling quite chilled and it feels like it’s clicking in the build up to the event, which is a nice place to be,” explained Colchester’s Stodel.
“We’re aiming for the medals and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have our sights set on gold. If you look at the World Cups over this year then we’ve not had the best run of it – we made some mistakes which have led to a string of fourths.
“But at the same time we’ve changed a lot in how we sail over the course of the year and it’s all been clicking so far in the build up to the Worlds, so we’re hoping for a good regatta and hopefully a medal to show us back up to where we feel we belong.”
Craig Wood, Steve Palmer and Liam Cattermole will also be looking to challenge in the Sonar event.
Racing gets underway at the Para Sailing World Championships on Saturday (28 November) with two races scheduled per day and one final race on Thursday 3 December.
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