With a 15-point lead heading into the final race, Australia’s Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch breezed to their second straight world title as the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships concluded on Thursday (3 December) in Melbourne, Australia.
It was a no contest for the Australian SKUD18 duo throughout the World Championships, looking in strong form to also defend their Paralympic title ahead of Rio 2016. The Polish crew of Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki finished second in race 11 and took fifth in the leaderboard, enough to qualify their country a spot for Rio 2016. The Singapore pair of Jovin Tan and Desiree Lim scored a third, while the British team of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell sailed to fourth on Thursday to cement their silver medal in the Championship. They were well clear of the Italian pair of Marco Gualandris and Marta Zanetti, whose seventh-place finish on Thursday was good enough to maintain their spot on the podium.
In the 2.4mR fleet, Finland’s Niko Salomaa broke away from the chasing pack in the final lap to win the race. He was followed by British sailor Megan Pascoe and then Austria's Sven Reiger.
But despite a ninth-place finish in race 11, Frenchman Damien Seguin had already held a considerable lead due to his performance in the past 10 races and landed him the gold medal. Germany's Heiko Kroeger (who finished sixth on Thursday), took the silver. Bronze went to Australia's Matt Bugg, serving disappointment to London 2012 Paralympic champion Helena Lucas of Great Britain, who missed the podium after placing fourth in the leaderboard. Bugg was buried in the middle of the pack during Thursday’s race, while Lucas was among the leaders. He found his way back however, as his 14th place good enough to hold the British sailor out by just two points.
In the sonar, the British team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas took gold. Australia’s crew of Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell Boaden took silver, followed by Norway’s Aleksander Wang-Hans, Marie Soldberg and Per Kristiansen with bronze.
The Australians had been dominant in the early part of the regatta but struggled in races seven to 10 and were bumped off the top of the leaderboard.
In theory, a good result in Thursday’s final race could have redeemed the position. Despite the Australians leading bunch in the early stages, the British team and the Israeli combination of Dror Cohen, Arnon Elfrati and Shimon Ben Yakov were not far behind. The Israelis managed to break away from the pack and went on for a very comfortable win by a margin of three minutes. The US team of Rick Doerr, Bradley Kendell and Hugh Freund came in second, ahead of the Australians.
Following the race, the Australians lodged a request for the re-opening of a protest from race four, in which they suffered damage following a collision with Israel. The Israeli boat executed its penalty turns and avoided disqualification, and the Australian boat was not granted redress. After consideration of the detail, the jury allowed the boat to accept either average points or retain their second place for the race – effectively confirming the status quo. In a fine gesture of sportsmanship, the Australians rushed over to the British crew to congratulate them immediately after emerging from the jury room.
Several athletes will remain in Williamstown for the next 10 days with several crews competing at Sailing World Cup Melbourne. Sailors will also have their eye on the 2016 Para World Sailing Championships in Medemblik, the Netherlands along the way.
Complete results from the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships can be found on the event website.
Day 5 recap
Day 4 recap
Day 3 recap
Day 2 recap
Day 1 recap