Para World Sailing Championships to get underway in Netherlands

The event will take place at the International Sailing Centre Medemblik in Netherlands, from 24-28 May. 23 May 2016
Heiko Kroeger

Heiko Kroeger from Germany

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By James Johnston and World Sailing

"The Para World Sailing Championships is the final Rio qualifier for Australia, and extremely important for our future Aussie Para class sailors.”

The Para World Sailing Championships in Medemblik, Netherlands, will be the last major opportunity for sailors to assess their competition ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Taking place from 24-28 May, the five-day event will feature the 2.4m, sonar and SKUD-18 classes.

Fresh from winning the World Cup event in Hyeres, France, earlier this month, Norway’s crew of Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Marie Solberg and Per Eugen Kristiansen will be looking to emulate their recent success in the sonar event.

Having rediscovered their winning form, back-to-back victories will do much to instil confidence in the Norwegian crew’s quest for Paralympic gold in Rio.

But standing in their way will be the likes of Great Britain’s current world champions John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, who despite leading the early days of competition in Hyeres, finished second to Norway.

In the 2.4m class, France’s reigning world champion Damien Seguin will again be one of the names likely to contend for a medal having won the last four competitions prior to finishing third in Hyeres.

Australia’s Matthew Bugg, his victor that day, claimed a bronze medal in home waters in the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships in Melbourne last year, but a follow-up victory here would show waters have turned in his favour.

Germany’s 2014 world champion Heiko Kroeger and Great Britain’s London 2012 gold medallist Helena Lucas will also be looking to add medals to their trophy cabinets.

Leading the way in the SKUD18 are Australia’s Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesel Tesch. The current world and Paralympic champions are hoping to continue that form to Rio and defend their title.

But to do that, they first need to get past compatriots Amethyst Barnbrook and Brett Pearce and gain their national selection.

"The Para World Sailing Championships is the final Rio qualifier for Australia, and extremely important for our future Aussie Para class sailors,” explained Tesch.

Chasing the Australian team are Great Britain's Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell. Although they are the most decorated SKUD18 sailors in the fleet, holding five world titles between 2009 and 2013, as well as London 2012 bronze, they have been second best to their rivals over recent events.

More information on the Para World Sailing Championships can be found on the event website.