Rickham and Birrell

Silver lining for British SKUD duo while Sonars take Worlds lead

Written by RYA | 02 December 2015

Rickham and Birrell secure SKUD silver while Sonar crew take pole with a day of Worlds racing to go

Great Britain secured its first medal on the penultimate day of the Para World Sailing Championships in Melbourne (Wednesday 2 December), with silver assured for the SKUD duo of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell.

The Paralympic bronze medallists have an unassailable points margin over the third-placed Italian team, with the host’s 2012 gold medallists and defending World Champions Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch wrapping up overall victory in the two-person event with a day to spare.

The British five-time World Champions endured a difficult regatta marred by equipment issues, but Birrell paid tribute to their resilience after testing week.

“I think realistically this morning we knew that [silver] was the best that could happen today,” explained the Knutsford sailor. “We sailed over some weed on day two and didn’t back down so got a 13th, and then we had a problem with Alex’s canting seat which put a lot of points on the scoreboard earlier in the week. “We bounced back quite well as a team, and kept the scores in the top three.”

“We have to respect the fact that [the Australians] sailed really well this week and deserve their world title,” continued Poole-based Birrell.

“I think the scores would have been a lot closer had it not been for the seat issue and the weed. That being said, they sailed really well and we’re going to have to find some more.”

Birrell says he’s motivated by the task ahead towards achieving Rio gold, and has enjoyed sailing in a larger than normal 17-boat SKUD fleet in Melbourne, with several teams pushing hard in the final months towards the 2016 Games.

“This is my favourite time of the cycle,” the 29-year-old continued. “It’s great to see so many boats and it’s fantastic to be going racing where a few point gap isn’t enough because it can swing round. I have respect for the whole fleet and we got a 13,7,4 so that shows that some of the boats are going quite well. I enjoyed the racing – it would have been nicer if we’d won!”

Meanwhile, a stellar day for the British Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas saw them claim the overall lead with one day and one race of the regatta remaining.

A second and a race win for the two-time World Champions on Wednesday, coupled with a disappointing 13,10 for the erstwhile Australian series leaders saw the British crew head into the final day with a four point advantage.

Colchester’s Stodel says it’s all on for the final day and they’ll look to try and sail their own race to close out the regatta.

“Given the venue and what we’ve seen, the scores have been so up and down I think we’ll just play nice and steady, casual, just go out and enjoy the race and see what happens,” she explained.

“We won’t be playing any silly shenanigans that’s for sure.”

Stodel was pleased that they could put a disappointing fourth day on Tuesday, where the trio posted a sixth and a 14th, behind them on the race track today.

“After yesterday we took ourselves off, we had a Chinese, we had a discussion and we sailed a lot better today, so we’re pretty happy.

“Yesterday we talked ourselves out of the game. We let it get to us and today we gave ourselves a good stiff talking to. The breeze was up again today which is one of our favoured conditions and I think we proved we can sail quite well in these.”

“I think we’re just maybe a bit more physical than everybody else on the boat,” said Stodel of their performance on Thursday.

“Our fitness comes into play here. Even just getting the Canadians on the line in the second race was just down to sheer brute force and sending it home.

“We were pretty aggressive out there and I think that’s helped a bit.”

Robertson, Stodel and Thomas will fight it out for the podium spots in Thursday’s final race, with the Australian crew and the French defending champions tied on points just behind them.

Craig Wood, Steve Palmer and Liam Cattermole maintain their overall position of 11th heading into the final day. In the 2.4mR fleet, Helena Lucas advanced one more place to fourth overall, but will need a good race herself and an error from the consistent Australian Matt Bugg to boost her into the podium spots from tomorrow’s final race.

The Paralympic champion is 11 points outside of the top three spots but sailed well on Wednesday to finish fifth and third in her two races.  The British Sailing Team’s Megan Pascoe is currently seventh overall and Will Street 25th.

For full results, visit http://www.topyacht.net.au/results/2015/paraworlds/

The Para World Sailing Championships will conclude on Thursday 3 December with one final fleet race across all three classes.

For news and British Sailing Team updates visit us at www.britishsailingteam.com on Facebook or on Twitter @BritishSailing


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