Australia’s Paralympic sailors kick-off 2015 Para World Sailing Championships with a bang

Australian Sailing Team’s Paralympic sailors have kicked-off the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships with a bang. London 2012 gold medallists Dan Fitzgibbon (NSW) and Liesl Tesch (NSW) took the lead in the SKUD-18 after posting a second and first place in the two races of the day.

Australian Sailing’s Sonar team of Paralympians Colin Harrison (WA), Jonathan Harris (NSW) and Russell Boaden (WA) followed suit and finished day one in the Sonar lead after a clean sweep of two first places.

In the 2.4mR Tasmanian Matt Bugg sits in overall sixth place after posting a ninth and eighth.   

Two-Person Keelboat – SKUD-18

“For the first day, we’re pretty happy with where we are at and we have a long week ahead. The first race was a bit on the light side and a bit choppy and we came away with a second, which was good to settle in. In the second race we got a bit more wind, 12-15 knots and we got away with a win in that one, which was good. We extended on the fleet and we’re happy with that,” Daniel Fitzgibbon said about the first day of the World Champs.

Coming into the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships Fitzgibbon and Tesch are holding an unbeaten run and asked about the ‘favourites’ target on their back Fitzgibbon said:

“We’re just trying to do our best and are not too worried about what other people do. We’re very self-critical and analyse how we sail.”

We come to Melbourne pretty much every year, so we’re comfortable with the venue and comfortable with the water and it’s a bit like home. It’s not quite Pittwater, but it’s quite nice out there, we’re comfortable and enjoying the sailing and the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria is pretty awesome,” he added about sailing at home in Australia.

“It’s great to have everyone here and for others to see Australia, to come down here and sail with us and enjoy what we enjoy, how good Australia is and show it off a little bit. I think everyone is enjoying it and having a great time.”

Australia’s second SKUD18 crew of Ame Barnbrook (NSW) and Brett Pearce (NSW) did not have a good start to the event and had to finish the day early after a strong ninth in the first race and an unfortunate equipment failure just before the start of the second race.

“Just a minute from the start the mainsheet got caught around Ame’s electric steering. When I get out of my seat, we’re automatically disqualified, but I had jump out to avoid hitting a boat and that was the race done. We’ll have to come back into it again tomorrow,” Brett Pearce explained. 

Three-Person keelboat – Sonar

Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Jonathan Harris have continuously finished on the podium since winning the bronze medal at last year’s 2014 World Championship and on the first day of these World Champs made their intentions clear to continue to do so.

They had strong day one with a clean sweep of two first places but are aware that there is still a long way to go in the six-day event.

“Two bullets for the start of the event is a great way to go. It’s been nice weather out there today so we had a great sail,” Colin Harrison said.  

“There’s a long way to go yet and there’s a lot of good teams out there, so it’s still completely open. We still have the British on our tail, Norway, the number one USA team, French, Israel, there’s plenty of competition.”

And looking ahead he added, “Tomorrow it will be all about consolidating our position early in the event. So it’s important to keep the scores as high as possible and see where we go after that.”

One-Person Keelboat – 2.4mR

Australian Sailing Team’s Paralympian Matt Bugg finished fifth in the 2.4mR at last year’s IFDS World Championships, continuously worked his way up the ranks over the international competitions this season and is planning to do the same at these World Champs.

“The conditions were perfect today and the sailing was tough, just like I thought it would be. We’ve got five more days of racing so there’s plenty of time for me to work my way up the leader board, but compared to my usual starts I’m pretty happy with my first day”, Matt Bugg said.

“I love racing at home and I love racing in Melbourne. This is one of my favourite places in the world to race. I’m really comfortable here and it’s so cool racing in Australia.”

Australian Sailing Squad’s Neil Patterson finished day one in overall 41st in the 48 boat fleet.

Williamstown, VIC put on a stunning day for the first day of the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships with another two races to follow tomorrow, Sunday, 29 November 2015

It is the first time that Australia is hosting the Para World Sailing Championships and racing out of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria (RYCV) in Williamstown, all five crews of Australian Sailing Team’s (AST) and Squad (ASS) Paralympic boat class sailors are contesting the event and aiming to defend their 2014 Nation’s Cup win as the team prepares for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games (7 – 18 September 2016).

142 sailors from 31 nations are competing across three Paralympic events and over six days on Port Phillip, Melbourne, Australia from 28 November to 3 December. It is the largest Paralympic World Sailing Competition in the lead up to the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

With less than a year out from the Paralympic Games the Australian Sailing Team is looking strong after multiple top podium finishes across the international season.

– Cora Zillich

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