Williamstown, Melbourne, Australia is set to welcome a bumper 2.4mR fleet for the Para World Sailing Championships with 51 boats from 26 nations registered to compete.
The list of sailors making their way to the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria is very much a who’s who of the Paralympic sailing world. 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 Paralympic fleets in history.
Away from the race for the title 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 with seven further places up for grabs in Melbourne. Every point will be vital with 18 nations vying for those places.
Defending champion Heiko Kroeger of Germany heads into Melbourne on a fine run of form. Since his silver medal performance at the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Competition in Weymouth and Portland, Great Britain, the German has finished on the podium at every regatta he has sailed at.
Gold medals at the 2013 and 2014 editions of ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres helped him to prepare for the 2014 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 Para 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. With bronze and silver up his sleeve can he make it a full sweep of colours in Williamstown? Only time will tell.
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.
Helena Lucas (GBR) is yet to add a world championship title to her London 2012 Paralympic gold medal with three bronze and two silver medals to her name. Alongside this, Lucas has also mixed it up in the Open 2.4mR World Championships, where able-bodied and Para World Sailing athletes compete side by side. The Briton has silver and bronze to her name at the Open Worlds but is yet to feel gold around her neck in any World Championships and will certainly be aiming to right that in Williamstown.
Further sailors who have what it takes to claim the title include Norway’s Bjornar Erikstad, Australia’s Matt Bugg, Finland’s Niko Salomaa and Great Britain’s Megan Pascoe.
Away from the fight from the title there will be an interesting battle for the remaining Rio 2016 Paralympic Games qualification places in the 2.4mR.
Sailors from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Norway and the United States of America booked their spot at Rio 2016 last year but for the remaining 18 nations sailing in Williamstown, they’re fighting for one of seven places.
Following the Paralympic Development Program in Weymouth and Portland, Great Britain in August, the 2015 Para Worlds features a number of nations new to the Paralympic sailing arena.
Sailors from Czech Republic, Estonia, Hong Kong and Portugal will sail in Williamstown looking to put the skills they’ve honed in from the Paralympic Development Program into practice.
There are also a number of experienced Paralympians in the fleet including Sven Reiger (AUT), Julio Reguero (PUR), Juan Fernandez Ocam (ARG) and Paul Francis (NZL) who will also be in the hunt for the Paralympic Games places.
Racing in the 2.4mR commences on Saturday 28 November in Melbourne at 13:00 local time.