"My goal is to win a Paralympic medal in Rio, obviously but sailing, for me, is purely about being out on the water."
Australian 2.4mR sailor Matt Bugg has progressed since his first World Championship in 2010. On Saturday (28 November), he has a chance to culminate all those years of experience to a podium finish at the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships held in Melbourne, Australia.
Bugg was involved in a snowboarding accident when he was 24 which left him a paraplegic. A keen sailor before the accident, progression into Paralympic sailing was a natural step for Bugg, who was exposed to the sport before he could even crawl.
"Funnily enough my first sailing experience was as a baby on my father's 30 foot yacht,” said Bugg. "He had a boat called Humbug that he used to sail the Sydney Hobart and Melbourne Hobart races. I've been sailing since I was four weeks old.
"As I grew up sailing as a kid, in dinghies, I was already well and truly a sailor. I broke my back when I was 24 in a snowboarding accident and after that it was just a natural fit to go into Paralympic yachting.”
Bugg has made steady progression in the one-person keelboat event since a 16-place finish at his first World Championships He took fourth in 2013 and a fifth in 2014, but Bugg has been on the right path.
"My goal is to win a Paralympic medal in Rio, obviously but sailing, for me, is purely about being out on the water,” Bugg said. “I love being on the water and around it. Also yacht racing is the best kind of racing I have ever done. I love the tactical side of it and the smart side of it.”
Bugg hopes to represent Australia on home waters, alongside compatriots and London 2012 Paralympic gold medallists Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch in the SKUD18.
Fitzgibbon had a similar path that led him to Paralympic sailing.
"I was a sailor before my accident and I was sailing the 420 and 470s, Sabot and all the way through,” Fitzgibbon said. “I was living the Olympic dream and I wanted to go to the Olympics.
"I was competing in Sail Sydney in 1997 and I had an accident at one of the yacht clubs there during the regatta and I had to change my focus from the Olympic dream to the Paralympic dream.
"It took a bit of time but we found a way in and developed the boat with seating and steering so I could sail the Paralympic boats. I continued my dream in a little bit of a different direction.”
Fitzgibbon won gold in the Hansa Liberty class at the 2004 International Disabled Sailing Federation (IFDS) Single-Person Dinghy World Championship (Class A).
"Setting a goal is what I have always done,” explained Fitzgibbon. "I think if someone with a disability has a goal just go out and do it. Just start and get experience and enjoy it… I've been sailing all my life and it's taken me a long time to get any good.”
He won silver in the SKUD18 at Beijing 2008 with Rachael Cox. Four years later, he won gold at London 2012 with Liesel Tesch.
Fitzgibbon and Tesch have formed a strong bond and have remained unbeaten since London 2012 and will be aiming to continue that run on their home waters in Melbourne.
"The big target will be on our back after our Paralympic Gold medal first, then 2014 world champion and our season so far, so watch this space,” Tesch said.
For more information on the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships, visit the event website.