Sonar: Favorites and Spoilers at Rio Games

Published on September 10th, 2016

There are usually favourites in any competition, but at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games the Three Person Keelboat (Sonar) class could be the exception to the rule.

In the Rio 2016 quadrennial there has been no one team taking hold of the fleet and winning on a consistent basis. Even the sailors themselves know that it could just come down to who sails the best on the day from a very strong line up.

Norway’s London 2012 bronze medallist, Aleksander Wang-Hansen, sailing with Marie Solberg and Per Kristiansen, said, “I think there are six or seven teams that could medal here and who will have the best week this week is hard to tell.”

Despite the depth in competition, Wang-Hansen is in confident mood, “Our goal here is a medal and we will be disappointed if we don’t get one. If we get a gold obviously that would be the best.”

Agreeing with Wang-Hansen’s assessment of the number of potential medallists is Israel’s Dror Cohen, “There’s about seven or eight boats that on any day could have a good race and win, so it’s open. We are all there playing but I hope it’s us that ends up with the win.”

Cohen helmed his crew to Athens 2004 gold in the Sonar so will have an idea of what it takes to win and can pick out a rival when he sees one. Cohen returns to Paralympic competition with fellow medal winner Arnon Efrati and is joined by Shimon Ben Yakov and he has his sights set on another medal, “Podium is a minimum of course. Everyone dreams about putting their hand up and singing their national anthem so we are definitely aiming for the top spot on the podium.”

One team that arrived in Rio with confidence are the current world champions, Alphonsus Doerr, Bradley Kendell and Hugh Freund from the USA. Freund has identified what he thinks will tip the balance in the chase for Rio gold saying, “Guanabara Bay rewards teams that can handle changing conditions. If a team doesn’t have well defined roles in the boat, they’re going to have a rough go when changing conditions demand the full attention and input from every team member. It’s a heads up kind of venue, the team that wins the first beat but picks the wrong side of the run can easily drop way back.”

Just losing out to the Americans at the 2016 recent Worlds were Great Britain’s John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas. They also have a world title to their name in the quad when they took the 2015 championship in Williamstown, Melbourne, Australia.

Some more world champions in the fleet are the French team. Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary can actually boast two from 2013 and 2014. They have not quite managed to find that form on a regular basis since though.

The medallists just keep on coming. Germany’s Jens Kroker and Siegmund Mainka are London 2012 silver medallists, but had a shake-up in their crew recently when usual team mate Robert Prem suffered a stroke. The German’s have drafted in 2.4mR sailor Lasse Klotzing to helm, which moves Kroker along the boat. Team leader Kroker will use his vast experience to make up for Klotzing’s Sonar experience shortfall.

Australia’s Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell Boaden always push for podium places in major competitions and will again feel confident they can do the same, possibly edging to the gold that has so far eluded them.

Canada will be looking for Paul Tingley to lead Logan Campbell and Scott Lutes with his experience of winning a Paralympic gold medal. Tingley won his gold in the One Person Keelboat at the Beijing 2008 Games. The Canadian’s won silver at the 2014 World Championship with Tingley at the helm.

Elsewhere in the field a wealth of experience could pay dividends. New Zealand’s Richard Dodson was the onboard strategist for Team New Zealand’s successful 1995 challenge and 2000 defence of the America’s Cup. He is joined by Andrew May, who sailed in Atlanta 1996 when sailing was a demonstration sport, and Chris Sharp.

Ireland’s John Twomey is in his 11th and final Paralympic Games, sailing with Ian Costelloe and Austin O’Carroll. Twomey will be hoping for a medal winning send-off in sailing after previously winning Paralympic medals in the Discus before moving to the water.

The Sonars will begin racing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on the Escola Naval race area of Guanabara Bay.

The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games takes place on September 7-18 with the Sailing events on September 12-17 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Competition will be held in three events: 2.4 Norlin OD (singlehanded), SKUD18 (doublehanded), and Sonar (triplehanded).

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Source: Richard Aspland – World Sailing

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