by Delta Lloyd Regatta (as amended by IHCA)
Patience was the essential ingredient on the second day of the 2016 Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik, Netherlands, which incorporates the 2016 Para Sailing World Championships. Light and tricky winds lasted all day, testing race officials and sailors alike, with most fleets delayed at some point. The IJsselmeer was in stark contrast to Tuesday’s strong winds and in most fleets created some different winners.
Racing for the SKUD18 fleet was delayed and the fleet held on shore, whilst other classes battled with 3-4 knot breezes.
Monika Gibes/Piotr Cichocki (POL) have taken the lead in the SKUD18 class, after a first and second places, from yesterday’s leaders Alexandra Rickham/Nikki Birrell (GBR). John Mcroberts/Jackie Grey (CAN) move up to third. As an Olympic selection event for the Americans, Sarah Skeels/Cindy Walker (USA) had a better day again than Ryan Porteous/Maureen Mckinnon (USA) to hold a significant points lead. Skeels said, “We had some frustration today because we were winning the first race, which was cancelled. After that, it was hard to stay on track, since the breeze kept petering out.”
Results are available via this link.
Not only is the 2016 Delta Lloyd Regatta the final Para World Sailing Championship before the Rio Paralympics it may also be the last time the para sailing classes race a world championship as an Olympic event. Following the IPC decision to drop sailing from the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, Rio could be the last chance for these sailors to win gold.
Betsy Alison, the Paralympic Coach for the US Sailing Team says, “All the sailors here are extremely disappointed that sailing was removed from the 2020 programme so I think they are all approaching this event as if it could be their last chance to go.”
“If you look at the average Paralympian in sailing, a lot of the ages are higher than you would see in Olympic athletes. A lot of the sailors we have here sustain their injuries later in life or have been diagnosed with a disease that have caused them to have a physical disability. Some have also been sailing their whole lives. So I think those that are a little bit older in age are, if you look eight years down the road, thinking it might not be a possibility for them.”
“I think some of the younger ones are looking and hopeful that sailing can come back in for 2024 but everyone is approaching this event as if it could be the last one.”
Mark Robinson, Team Manager of the Australian Sailing Team says that after Rio, para sailing programmes and funding will suffer cuts. “For most of the big countries I think the governments will just stop funding them.”
But he is optimistic that sailing will return to the Paralympics in 2024. “I think now that World Sailing and IFDS have merged we’ve got a reasonable chance in 2024. But we need to make it more exciting. The question in my mind is at the moment we deal with minimal disability in the 2.4 and maximum disability in the Skud, and we need to have some classes that caters for those people. At the moment it’s only the helmsman position on the Skud. So we need to expand that range.”
And for the Australian team, “Some of our guys have been around for a while, so whether they want to come back in 2024 is a good question. I think a lot of it is still up in the air, the classes, the format, can we get back in. So at this stage we are basically looking at Rio and then reassess. The decision for 2024 will be in 2018, so really you have to keep something rolling along for a couple of years, even if it’s just the championships to try and get to 32 nations to get back in.”
Alison added, “We want to embrace the concept that anyone who has a disability can sail. It’s a great sport for people whose lives have changed. And it’s a great social outlet for a lot of the sailors. This sport is a great equaliser, and when you are out on the water and training and competing against able bodied sailors, you can’t tell the difference.”
“The end game is to get back in the Paralympic Games and provide opportunities for these athletes to sail for the gold and stand on the podium representing their countries.”
Photo © Sander van der Borch