Williamstown, Melbourne, Australia is welcoming a bumper 2.4mR fleet for the Para World Sailing Championships, which begin Tuesday (24 November), with 51 boats from 26 nations registered to compete.
Paralympic medals, Para World Sailing Championship honours as well as Open 2.4mR World Championship accolades are among the 51 sailors, making for one of the most decorated para- sailing fleets in history.
Defending champion Heiko Kroeger heads into Melbourne in fine form. Since his silver medal performance at the London 2012 Paralympics, the German has finished on the podium at every regatta he has sailed at.
Gold medals at the 2013 and 2014 editions of International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup Hyeres, France, helped him prepare for the 2014 International Disabled Sailing Federation (IFDS) Combined World Championships (the former name of the Para World Sailing Championships). Kroeger was in excellent form in Nova Scotia, Canada, and claimed his sixth title. His first came at the Worlds in 1999 and he has been a mainstay at the front of the pack ever since.
Kroeger, a Sydney 2000 Paralympic 2.4mR gold medallist, has competed at two regattas in 2015, picking up bronze at World Cup Hyeres and silver at the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik, the Netherlands.
France's Damien Seguin had the beating of Kroeger in Hyeres and Medemblik and much like the German, is a decorated Paralympic sailor with Athens 2004 Paralympic gold and three World Championship titles. Wins in Hyeres and Medemblik ensure the French racer ventures into the Worlds undefeated in 2015 and ready to recapture the title he last won in 2012.
Great Britain’s Helena Lucas has yet to add a World Championships title to her London 2012 Paralympic gold medal with three bronze and two silver medals. Alongside this, Lucas has also mixed it up in the Open 2.4mR World Championships, where able-bodied and para-sailing athletes compete side by side.
There will also be an intriguing battle for the remaining Rio 2016 Paralympic Games places available. Eight nations booked their spot for Rio 2016 at the 2014 Worlds, leaving seven places up for grabs in Melbourne. Every point will be vital with 18 nations vying for those places.
Other sailors to watch include Norway's Bjornar Erikstad, Australia's Matt Bugg, Finland's Niko Salomaa and Great Britain's Megan Pascoe.
Sailors from Czech Republic, Estonia, Hong Kong, China, and Portugal will sail in Williamstown looking to put the skills they honed at August’s Paralympic Development Programme into practice.
Experienced Paralympians also in the fleet include Austria’s Sven Reiger, Puerto Rico’s Julio Reguero, Argentina’s Juan Fernandez Ocam and New Zealand’s Paul Francis.
For more information on the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships, visit the event website.