A record 98 sailors from 39 nations will race at the Para World Sailing Championships in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA from 18-22 September 2018.
Sheboygan Yacht Club and the waters of Lake Michigan will welcome numerous Paralympic and World Championship medallists who will set sail in the Open 2.4 Norlin OD, Men’s Hansa 303, Women’s Hansa 303 and the Open RS Venture Connect.
2.4 Norlin OD sailor Heiko Kroger (GER), Women’s Hansa 303 racer Violeta del Reino (ESP) and men’s competitor Piotr Cichocki (POL) won gold at the 2017 edition of the Championships and all return to defend their crown.
The RS Venture Connect is making its debut at the Para Worlds. The boat is a versatile, modern GRP keelboat with an asymmetric gennaker. Plug & Play Para sailing equipment options allow the boat to be configured to suit any sailor.
Eight teams will race in the RS Venture Connect, including Great Britain’s Alexandra Rickham, London 2012 bronze medallist, Scott Lutes (CAN), Rio 2016 bronze medallist and multiple World Champion and Vendée Globe hopeful Hannah Stodel (GBR).
In a first for the Para World Sailing Championships, the RS Venture Connect will adopt a ‘winner-takes-all’ final race. The top four teams will advance to Saturday’s final race and the first past the finish line will be crowned the first ever World Champion in the RS Venture Connect.
Thirty eight competitors will set sail in the 2.4 Norlin OD, making it the largest fleet at the Championships. Not only that, the fleet is packed full of Paralympians and medallists from the last five Paralympic Games.
France’s Damien Seguin became the most successful Paralympic sailor at Rio 2016 when he added another gold to his collection of Athens 2004 gold and Beijing 2008. Alongside this success, the Frenchman has amassed 12 World Championship medals and has been top of the podium on five occasions.
Seguin is undefeated in 2018, winning gold at the World Cup Series event in Hyères, France and at the European Para Sailing Championship, and will be targeting another in Sheboygan.
Much like Seguin, Germany’s Kroger is also well-decorated. The German won Paralympic gold at Sydney 2000 and is a nine-time 2.4 Norlin OD World Champion.
Seguin and Kroger have battled against each other for numerous years and that trend will continue once again in Sheboygan. However, there are several contenders who will also be targeting the podium.
Leading sailors include Rio 2016 SKUD18 silver medallist Jackie Gay (CAN), 2.4 Norlin OD silver medallist Matt Bugg (AUS), Beijing 2008 2.4 Norlin OD winner Paul Tingley (CAN) and the ever-consistent Bjørnar Erikstad of Norway.
The 2.4 Norlin OD will sail an Opening Series and the top ten will advance to a Medal Race on Saturday where the medals will be decided.
Poland’s Cichocki fought it out with Germany’s Jens Kroker and Australia’s Christopher Symonds at the 2017 World Championships in Kiel, Germany.
Symonds had the best of the opening day in 2017, winning both races, but the Polish sailor hit back with seven straight victories to claim a resounding victory. Symonds held on to take silver ahead of Kroker.
All three make a return to the Para World Sailing Championships and will no doubt do battle at the front of the 34-boat fleet again.
In the Women’s Hansa 303, del Reino makes a comeback to defend the title she won convincingly in Kiel. The Spanish competitor clinched gold by 16 points over Brazil’s Ana Paula Marques. The Brazilian also returns to a nine-boat fleet which features competitors from Austria, Australia, Latvia, Turkey and Poland.
Much like the RS Venture Connect, the Men’s and Women’s Hansa 303 will sail a single final race to decide the podium finishers.
Racing is scheduled to commence at 1000 local time on Tuesday 18 September.
By Daniel Smith – World Sailing