Perfect starts to Para World title defences in Medemblik

Associations, Sailing, Sports, Yachting — By on May 24, 2016 at 6:31 PM

Delta Lloyd Regatta 2016 © Sander van der BorchOn the first day of the Para World Sailing Championships in Medemblik, the Netherlands there were perfect starts for two of the current world champions of the Paralympic classes.

Current 2.4 Norlin OD champion Damien Seguin (FRA) and Great Britain’s Sonar team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas got their championships off to a flyer posting two wins from two races as they look to keep hold of the 2015 titles they won in Melbourne, Australia.

2.4 Norlin OD

With a top class 2.4 Norlin OD lineup there are a lot of contenders from around the globe who are more than capable of landing a medal, so a fast start out of the blocks will do wonders for the confidence in what could be a challenging week of changing weather conditions.

Coming in to the championships determined to defend his title, Seguin couldn’t have asked for a better start in conditions he knows he can excel in. Quite simply put, day one was “Wet, ” exclaimed Seguin, “The day was very wet, but it was good for me. We had two races and I won both so a really good start for this world championship.”

“You never know what can happen in a world championship. I know I am very fast in these weather conditions but it was not easy on the water and I am really happy tonight to have won both races.”

With Seguin seemingly in his element on a wet and cold day on the Ijsselmeer with a solid 16-22 knot north-westerly wind, you may be forgiven for thinking that the Frenchman would ask for more of the same, but you would be wrong. Yes, Seguin is thinking of a Para World Sailing title but there are other things on his mind, the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, as Seguin explains, “It is good to have all the conditions because we know that in Rio you can have anything, so it is good to know how I will perform in all these conditions with the men and women who I will be racing against in three months time.”

Just to confirm what he wants, a laughing Seguin said, “It will be better tomorrow if it is not winter. Maybe the summer will come with light wind and I hope it does because it is better to sail in all conditions.”

Rio 2016 will come soon enough, for now a world title is on the line and his competitors may have more of a say on the result than the weather.

Heiko Kroeger (GER) placed second in both races to sit in second overall, and completing the 1, 2, 3 for the two races was Australia’s Matt Bugg who took two third places, but there was a moment when Bugg thought his championships may have been over before it got started, “It was a tough day, ” exclaimed Bugg, “I got run in to before the first race had started which I thought was going to send me home because it was a massive bang. That shook me a little bit and I thought I was going to have to come in but my coach told me it was ok and I did the first race.”

That ‘massive bang’ may have actually helped Bugg in a roundabout way as the Australian seemed quite relaxed despite thinking his championships could have been over just hours earlier, “The first race was tough but I managed a third and the second race I was just out of touch with Damien (Seguin) and Heiko (Kroeger) to get another third. You know for a world championships it was a good day. Two thirds, I’m happy with that.”

Bugg will live to fight another Para World Sailing Championship day, but not before a little DIY before bed, “There is a bit of damage which needs to be fixed on the back of the boat after the collision so we will probably have to pull the boat out and get some fibre glass on there tonight, but it will be fine.”

Sonar

Great Britain’s John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas refused for the headlines to be taken by Seguin so took two bullets of their own in the Sonar as they began their title defence.

On a day when the breeze was in abundance and communication was key, the Briton’s were in their element and were a step above the field, a point proven by a handsome winning margin in the second race of the day. Thomas said, “It was breezy and shifty with big ranges in breeze as well so you had to use a lot of technique, a lot of trimming, and comms were up right around the race track for the whole day. It was really good, and those are the kind of conditions we favour the most.”

Despite two wins, Thomas knows that his team cannot rest on their laurels with a high calibre fleet now chasing them down, “The fleet is super competitive, but the usual top suspects were up there today – us, the Australians, the Norwegians, the French. We were all battling it out from the start.”

Just like Seguin in the 2.4 Norlin OD, Rio 2016 is on the mind for the British crew as Thomas explains, “Obviously it would be nice to come away with a win but predominantly it’s about looking at form for the Games. That’s where we want to be peaking. We want to be ticking off some of the racecraft we’ve been doing at the last couple of events, and some of the kit selections as well.”

If day one is an indicator, then there will be one big tick against the racecraft box for Thomas and his team mates.

Looking at ‘the usual suspects’ in the class, Australia’s Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell Boaden are in second with a 3, 2 finish while France’s Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary complete the medal positions in third following a 2, 4.

SKUD18

Following the world champion’s lead in the other Paralympic classes, in the SKUD18 it looked like it was going to be a full house as Australia’s 2015 SKUD18 champions, Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesel Tesch (AUS) also took a bullet in the first race. Unfortunately for the Australian’s they couldn’t quite bring it home in the second race of the day only managing a seventh to sit in third overall.

Their loss was Great Britain’s Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell’s gain as they seek to win a sixth world title. A third place in the first race and a bullet in the second leaves them well placed at the top of the leader board at the end of day one.

With a 2, 2 for the day to finish in second overall are Poland’s Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki. Sandwiched between world champions may be the spur the team need to compete through the week and improve upon the bronze medal they picked up at the last world championships.

Sitting in fourth are Netherlands’ home nation sailors Rolf Schrama and Sandra Nap. Fresh off the boat Schrama said, “It was a very interesting first day, it was exciting. We had two fourth places and it was a good start and I think we can grow in to the competition. We are really satisfied for now.”

Being local to the Medemblik venue, Schrama gave his take on what it is like to have a Para World Sailing Championships in the Netherlands, “It’s great. I love it. First of all it’s only like half an hour drive from my house, but it is good to have everyone from around the world here to compete and see what a great country and sailing venue this is.

“And today was typical weather for Medemblik so everyone got to see what its usually like for us when we train here.”

With everyone getting a taste of the typical weather, Seguin may not get his wish of a summers day with light winds tomorrow, but if the streaks continue we could have some very familiar names on the podium when all is said and done. There is still a lot more racing to go and a lot of sailors will have different ideas about what names get added to the world champions list in Medemblik by the end of the regatta.

Racing commences in Medemblik, the Netherlands at 10.30 local time with the Sonar first on the water for the Paralympic classes.

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