by Bernie Kaaks (as amended by IHCA).
In perfect conditions on Melbourne’s Port Phillip, the first two races of the Para World Championship were run by the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria. Winds were steady at around 10 knots and as cloud cover cleared all three course areas were bathed in sunshine.
Conditions were perfect for the SKUD18’s. Australia’s Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch began with a second place in the first race, but were dominant in race two with a good win. Their main competition will continue to come from the British pair of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell who trail them with a second and third to their credit and Poland’s Monica Gibes and Piotr Cichocki, who posted and eighth in the second race after winning the first.
In race two, the Australians rounded the first mark with a small but decisive lead, but sailing fast and deep under spinnaker, doubled their lead when they reached the gate and went on from there to a very comfortable win.
After racing Fitzgibbon said, “The first day of World Champs for us and we are trying to settle in to a long week ahead. It’s just the first day and 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 for the first day, we’re pretty happy with where we are.”
Hear from Fitzgibbon via a video on the regatta’s Facebook page.
Melbourne’s run of perfect sailing conditions continued on the bay for races three and four of the Para World Sailing Championships out of Williamstown’s Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.
The breeze was generally southerly, starting at around eight knots and steadily building to approximately 12 knots towards the end of the second race.
Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) in the SKUD18 and Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell Boaden (AUS) in the Sonar retained their lead whilst Germany’s Heiko Kroeger made a move to top spot in the 2.4mR.
In the two-person keelboat, the SKUD18, racing began with a general recall. Two SKUD18s were recalled in the pre-start, but the remainder of the fleet got away well. Great Britain’s Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell crossed the Australian boat sailed by Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch on the approach to the first mark and quietly consolidated their lead as the race progressed to record a comfortable win ahead of the Australians.
The Italian boat sailed by Marco Gualandris and Marta Zanetti were very close to the Australians to finish third, followed by the Dutch pair, Rolf Schrama and Sandra Nap.
In the second race of the day, Fitgibbon and Tesch began well to take another win and put themselves clearly ahead after four races. The American boat sailed by Ryan Porteous and Maureen McKinnon finished second, but the British team, which had done so well in the first race, finished, by their standards, a disastrous 13th place.
After four races, it is the Australian boat of Fitzgibbon and Tesch who lead on just six points, followed by Rickham and Birrell on 19 points with Italy’s Gualandris and Zanetti next on 20 and the Polish pair of Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki on 21. A real scrap will now develop for the remaining podium positions if the Australians continue their present form.
Fitzgibbon sounded an ominous warning to his fleet with his comments yesterday, “The Royal Yacht Club of Victoria is pretty awesome. 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.”
Their form to date confirms his thoughts.
A link to a story by Daniel Smith about the Polish SKUD18 team of Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki is available here.
Broken masts, collisions and a tough old day for the sailors at the Para World Sailing Championships as Port Phillip showed its wild side on the third day of competition in Williamstown, Melbourne, Australia.
A warm northerly breeze lured the sailors out of the comfortable surroundings of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria to their respective course areas with no sign of what was to follow.
The first race for all fleets was run in a breeze of 15 knots or so, with gusts to 20 knots and the wind direction swinging wildly in each gust. It was challenging but enjoyable sailing. In the second race however, the breeze built quickly. Strong gusts, reported at 30 knots, caught many crews unawares, with spectacular results.
Israeli and American SKUD18 sailors fell victim to the second race gusts as their masts snapped whilst Puerto Rico’s Julio Reguero collided with the committee boat on the 2.4mR race track.
On the SKUD18 course, conditions were trying for all crews in the first race, which was won by Australians Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch ahead of their team mates Amethyst Barnbrook and Brett Pearce, with the Netherlands crew of Rolf Schrama and Sandra Nap third.
In the race that followed, conditions were frightening, with vicious gusts sweeping down the course. Americans Ryan Porteous and Maureen McKinnon launched their spinnaker after rounding the windward mark, only to watch it fill instantly as a gust hit, and snap the mast neatly at the spreaders.
Soon afterwards, the Israeli crew of Hagar and Moshe Zahavi suffered a similar fate, both boats being towed back to the marina. The Australian crew, having established a good lead by the final lap, delayed the deployment of a spinnaker until after they had gybed, and kept a close watch on the Canadian boat closing in behind them. They went on to score another win, with Canada’s John McRoberts and Jackie Gray second and the Netherlands’ Rolf Schrama and Sandra Nap third.
Total points after dropping the worst are now Australia on 6 points, Great Britain on 17 and Italy on 21.
Vigilance and strict observance was required on the fourth day of racing at the Para World Sailing Championships being held out of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria in Williamstown, Melbourne, Australia.
With severe conditions forecast for the late afternoon, the race committee brought the starting time forward to 11:00 in an effort to beat the weather. Sailors from 31 nations racing in the three classes selected for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were expecting a tough day and that is what they received.
Racing on all three courses began in wind strengths of eight to ten knots from the west. All crews noticed wild swings in wind direction. It was a day when crews had to be more observant than usual and ensure that they stayed in sync with the wind direction. Those who failed to do so paid a terrible price.
The SKUD18’s of the USA and Israeli teams were racing against the clock to replace their broken masts in time for the morning start, while Britain’s Helena Lucas had an anxious wait while a boat builder worked frantically through the night to repair a gaping hole in her boat’s transom. In the end the resources of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria based support personnel successfully managed to have all boats back in action in time for today’s first race.
The SKUD18 started race 7 in 8 knots of breeze from the west, with 75% of the fleet electing to hold starboard tack off the start line and favour the left of the course. The British team of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell set the early pace and rounded the top mark clear of the Italian and French crews. The Australians at this stage were some distance back in fourth place.
On the downwind leg, the Italian and British crews, working the southern side of the course, struggled to gain the upper hand while the Australians gybed away inside them. The gap between boats narrowed considerably on the next upwind leg, with the British boat maintaining control of the race. At the final rounding of the windward mark, the Australians rounded behind the British but ahead of the Italians, with a long gap back to the rest of the fleet. For a moment it seemed that the Australian boat had a chance for an unlikely win as it surfed towards the finish line in a good line of pressure on the northern side of the course while the British boat continued its steady progress on the southern side, trailed by the Italians.
When they gybed back towards the finish line, it became clear that Rickham and Birrell had actually extended their lead while Gualandris and Zanetti emerged ahead of Fitzgibbon and Tesch. It was a graphic illustration of the different wind direction on various parts of the course.
In race eight the Australians reversed the result on the British with the Italians third.
Total points scores with just three races remaining have Fitzgibbon and Tesch leading on nine points, followed by Rickham and Birrell on 20 and Gualandris and Zanetti on 26.
The highlight of today’s racing at the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria in Williamstown, Australia, was the performance of Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch in the SKUD18 fleet. At the Para World Sailing Championships the pair racked up another two wins to wrap up the World title with one race still to go.
They withstood enormous pressure from the Dutch crew of Rolf Schrama and Sandra Nap, clinging to a narrow lead at the beginning of the last downwind leg to cross the line just nine seconds ahead of the plucky Netherlands team.
In the second race of the day, in winds that increased to more than 15 knots, it was the Polish crew of Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki who hassled the Australian all the way, but once again, Fitzgibbon held his nerve and the Polish crew trailed them by just seven seconds in one of the most exciting finishes in the series.
Their two victories today places the Australians in an impregnable position at the end of the day, with a total points score of 11 after dropping their worst score – a third. Even if they do not sail in the final race tomorrow, they cannot be beaten for the World Championship.
Trailing the Australians on the leader board are the British crew of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell, who sailed consistently today to score two thirds and now have a total of 26 points. Third is the Italian combination of Marco Gualandris and Marta Zanetti with 39 points. The Dutch team, with their second and seventh places today still have a chance to displace the Italians, lying just three points behind them at this stage.
A link to the overall results is available here.