By World Sailing (as amended by IHCA)
Light wind, tactical specialists came to the forefront on the opening day of racing at the 2017 Para World Sailing Championships as a challenging breeze tested the sailors.
The Para Worlds, held alongside Kieler Woche (Kiel Week) sailing festival in Kiel, Germany, saw more than 80 sailors from 39 nations tested by an inconsistent 6-9 knot west north westerly breeze.
Two races were completed in the Open 2.4 Norlin OD, Men’s Hansa 303 and Women’s Hansa 303, all One Person Keelboats open to classified sailors with minimum disabilities.
Those who thrive in light wind and sailors with their thinking caps on, constantly looking for shifts and gains on the water, moved to the head of their respective fleets.
Christopher Symonds (AUS) took two race wins in the Men’s Hansa 303 with Rio 2016 Paralympian Piotr Cichocki (POL) following on both occasions.
The Australian and Polish racers hold the gold and silver positions at the early stage of the regatta. Three-time Paralympic medallist Jens Kroker (GER) follows in third overall.
In amongst a field of experienced Paralympians, Symonds’ early success does not come as a surprise as he holds world and national titles in the Hansa 303.
Cichocki and Kroker fought for the medals at Rio 2016 and with their experience Symonds has noticed an increase in competition and is enjoying sharing the start line with new faces, “It’s pretty special,” he paused. “When you get on the start line and you see people looking up to windward beat with just over a minute to go you know the sailors are switched on and watching. Those two guys [Cichocki and Kroker] were doing that and they’re very good sailors. There’s no doubt about that. To be amongst them is pretty special.
“I’m not a Paralympic sailor but I have been sailing for many years, since I was ten and I love it. My condition with Kennedy’s Disease has stopped me sailing bigger boats so now I’m in the smaller boats, travelling the world and loving it.”
Symonds has dedicated his life to sailing and since the 1970s he has taken multiple honours within the sport. His wealth of knowledge is high and knows that he can not take anything for granted, much like a certain team in the America’s Cup right now, “We’ve got a long way to go. It’s like being in Team New Zealand and not getting ahead of ourselves.”
In the challenging 7-9 knot breeze, the conditions suited the lighter sailors, such as Symonds. The slightly heavier Cichocki and Kroker used their tactical nous to sail at the front of the pack.
The forecast for the rest of the week is for stronger breeze and Cichocki knows he can make the gains to overhaul Symonds, “The Australian sailed really well and he’s a good sailor but I’m slightly heavier so he had some extra speed on me. The regatta is really long and we need to focus on the next day.”
In the Women’s Hansa 303, France’s Magali Moraines and Spanish Rio 2016 Paralympian Violeta del Reino share the lead on four points.
Moraines took the opening race win and followed up with a fourth. Del Reino sailed consistently, finishing second in both races.
Rio 2016 Paralympian Qian Yin Yap (SIN) took the day’s other race win and is third overall.
Full results are available at http://www.manage2sail.com/en-US/event/KielWeek