USA Leads Sonar at Para World Sailing Championships

Published on May 25th, 2016

Medemblik, the Netherlands (May 25, 2016) – For Day two of 2016 Para World Sailing Championships, competitors saw a complete contrast from day one with very light wind that caused a shake-up in results across all Paralympic fleets.

With high winds on day one, on day two there were ups and downs, highs and lows with only a chosen few keeping consistency high at the top of their fleet in the light breeze on the Ijsselmeer. Whether you were a world champion, Paralympic medallist or Sailing World Cup winner it didn’t seem to matter today, inconsistency was coming for you.

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It was anyone’s guess who would finish in what position for the Sonar as there was a mix of results from race one and race two throughout the fleet and an upturn in fortunes from the day one winds.

Australia’s Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell Boaden scored a 12,4. France’s Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary scored a 13,8. Day one leaders, Great Britain’s John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas could only post two seventh placed finishes, finishes that drops them down to second overall.

It was down to Lasse Klotzing, Jens Kroker, Siegmund Mainka (GER) and Rick Doerr, Bradley Kendell and Hugh Freund (USA) to restore some order with steady results. The German team took two second places to move up to third overall while Team USA went to the top of the leader board with a bullet and a third place.

As others around them seemed to struggle to some degree, the Americans chose a different tactic and used the conditions on offer to put in to action some things they have been looking to improve upon, and they seemed to work.

“It was light and tricky out there today, and having patience was the name of the game,” explains Kendell. “We also had two good starts which helped us out. We’ve been focusing on our starting technique for months now. We also were very aggressive in our weight placement and boat handling, with Hugh [Freund] and I moving around constantly.”

When it mattered at race time the movement and starting practice came to the fore and if the team can continue making the improvements they showed on the day they stand a very good chance of staying at the top and in and around the medals.

While Team USA had one of the bullets on offer the other was taken by Israel’s Dror Cohen, Arnon Efrati and Shimon Ben Yaacov. Not immune from the diversity of results, the Israeli’s slipped back to sixth in the second race but still feel that they improved from day one.

“Our day started good, then was medium, but we managed to pull up and get back in the game again at the end,” explains Cohen. “We had a good day compared to yesterday. We are looking forward to the next few days to just make it all work.”

They certainly did make it work in the first race chasing after something that was in short supply on the Ijsselmeer, the wind, “The guys who went after the wind got it and got to the first mark ahead, that was really the turning point. Whoever saw the wind seemed to get it while the others were just left standing. We did it very well in the first race but in the second we missed a little in the first upwind, but we managed to stay in the game.”

The shake-up in results has certainly left no clear favourite, and Cohen thinks that is the way it will stay throughout the regatta, with his team in with a shout come medal time, “We are happy, working hard, ready to compete and everyone is good here. Nobody is giving up and there are seven or eight boats that could win the gold and we are one of those, so let’s see what happens.”

Top of the SKUD18 fleet are Poland’s Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki who seem to have forgotten that there is a world championship on the line, or maybe it is the perfect tactic as the pair have performed consistently over the first two days scoring a 2,2,2,1.

Gibes and Cichocki’s coach, Grzegorz Prokopowicz, has got in to the mind of his sailors to do one important thing in Medemblik, as Prokopowicz explains, “We don’t think about winning a world championship, we think about having fun and sailing. It’s six more races and we all just want to focus and have fun.”

Talking about the bullet and second his team notched up, that word comes up again, “The day was great for Piotr and Monika, they enjoyed their time on the water and had a lot of fun in the races.”

Fun may be the focus of the team and the coach but at some point they will have to think about winning that championship gold if their consistency stays with them through the regatta.

Currently the Polish teams nearest rivals are Great Britain’s Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell who had a 5,2 for the day. With two fourth place finishes John Mcroberts and Jackie Gay (CAN) sit in third overall.

As well as a fight for medals, there is also a fight on to get to the Rio 2016 Paralympics as the Para Worlds is the second of two trial regattas for the USA SKUD18 teams. Sarah Skeels and Cindy Walker are in eighth on the leader board but more importantly ahead of their compatriots Ryan Porteous and Maureen Mckinnon-Tucker who sit in 12th.

“We had some frustration today because we were winning the first race, which was cancelled,” said Walker. “After that, it was hard to stay on track, since the breeze kept petering out. We know and the fleet knows that we can be really good when we connect all of our good moments together and sail the way we know we can.”

With selection so close between the teams, Ryan Porteous will not have wanted to start his regatta being hit on the head on day one from a bit of freak bad luck. Porteous was flagged at the start of race one, caught an anchor line while doing a turn, hit the race committee boat and caught a blow from the boom. A DNF and a DNS is not the way you wish to start an important selection competition, but thankfully Porteous has come back to score a 14, 8 on day two. The selection battle lives on.

2.4 Norlin OD
Not to be outdone by the highs and lows of results in other fleets, Germany’s Heiko Kroeger started day two with a lowly 20th place only to come back and get a bullet in the next.

When talking about his own performance, the German just happened to sum up the day perfectly across the board, “Light and shade were so close together today.” He was spot on.

The light for Kroeger was that bullet, but he had to get through his shade to get there and it just so happened that in his shade there was no wind at all, as he explains half chuckling, “I mean the first race I just had no wind and boats overtook me from left and right. The only thing I could do was count the boats, that was it.” With the chuckle subsided Kroeger continues, “I was just unlucky in the first race. Sometimes you need 5% luck to make up the rest of the 95% from the race to get the result.”

Luckily for Kroeger the maths added up and thanks to his first he currently sits in third overall on 25 points.

Sitting above in second is Australia’s Matt Bugg who picked up a third and tenth on the day to give him 19 points total. Still ahead and in pole position is current world champion Damien Seguin (FRA). Considering the differences elsewhere the Frenchman would be relatively happy with a 4,5 to sit on 11 points.

Outside the top three and in ninth on the leader board you will find young gun Fia Fjelddahl (SWE). Arguably the rising star of the 2.4 Norlin OD, Fjelddahl was excited to come ashore with a bullet from race one in a very competitive fleet and will be hoping that can spur her on to push her way up the overalls with what is undoubtedly a confidence boost for the youngster.

Note: The Para Worlds are being sailed in conjunction with the Delta Lloyd Regatta on May 24-28.

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Source: World Sailing, US Sailing Team

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