Schmitter extends in 2.4m

20+ knot winds in Portland Harbour at the IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championships

Wednesday July 6th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

The race for the medals is really starting to hot up with two days and three races to go. Crews braved winds of more than 20 knots in Portland Harbour today as Weymouth and Portland's finally lived up to its reputation as a breezy venue after three days of light and fluky airs.

Athens 2004 Sonar champion skipper Dror Cohen (ISR) insists he is ready for a fight to the title as he moved within two points of French rival Bruno Jourdren’s first-placed crew on day four of the IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championships.

Cohen, Benni Vexler and Arnon Efrati revelled in the stronger winds that blasted around Portland Harbour today, picking up a second and third for their two races as Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary scored a fourth and fifth leaving everything to play for with two days and three races to go.

Skandia Team GBR’s John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas are still in contention for the top prize, five points in arrears of the Frenchmen, despite a gybing error in race eight leaving them with a ripped mainsail, and finishing that race in ninth.

Breezes over 20 knots provided the 155 sailors competing at the RYA-run event at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy this week with a completely different challenge to the first three days of racing.

With the wind now forecast to remain for the rest of the week, Cohen is looking forward to some close to the knuckle racing. “We’re inside the medals and fighting hard. Everything is open, you count everything now, it can turn any way. Today we had a good day, we managed the boat pretty well in the strong winds and that was the key. My crew Benni and Arnon were amazing, so I’m happy, for us and for Israel but it only counts in three more races. We had a big problem with the boat at Skandia Sail for Gold, it’s a new boat and we didn’t perform well. But we’ve worked on it, changed some things and you learn it, fine tune it and it’s now getting better. The Sonar level is really, really high and now eight to 10 boats can fight in the medals and it’s really hard competition so when you win against such good rivals it’s a lot of fun.”

Defending World champion Thierry Schmitter (NED) continued his march to his third consecutive crown with a first and second today, increasing his lead to 17 points over Britain’s Helena Lucas. A good day for Schmitter’s Dutch teammate Andre Rademaker saw him move into the medal places, as a race eight disqualification for Britain’s Megan Pascoe saw her drop to fourth.

Athens 2004 2.4mR champion, and Beijing 2008 silver medallist, Damien Seguin (FRA) also enjoyed his best day of the regatta to threaten the medal spots.

Seguin returned to France to race 40-foot yachts after Skandia Sail for Gold and has taken a few races to get back into the 2.4mR groove. But he was delighted with his performance today and is enjoying the opportunity to race once again in what will be the 2012 Paralympic Games venue next September. “It’s important to sail here because it’s important to know the wind, to understand the conditions and I want this place to be like my home by next year. I love this place because the wind is good, the harbour and the organisation is perfect and I’m looking for the gold next year. Today we had more wind and that is better for me. When you have 20 knots in the harbour it’s difficult because you have short waves, but I really like this.”

Skandia Team GBR’s SKUD duo Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell are also on course to complete a hat-trick of World titles, edging six points ahead of Antipodean rivals Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) courtesy of a 3, 1 today.

Rickham said: “I think our boat-handling really paid off in this weather – a lot of people were struggling quite heavily and I think for Niki and I it’s one of our strengths that even if we’re down on speed we manage to make up ground where other people have to tack and gybe so we’re very, very happy, and it was great to be able to put two more points on our lead.”

In a top seven dominated by Australian and USA crews, Rickham and Birrell’s coach Marcus Lynch says the increasing quality of the international crews is driving the standard of competition ever higher. “There are a few countries here this week that have got very competitive boats in their squads. The Australians have got three competitive boats, who train as a squad with a coach and a support crew, and Niki and Alex are very aware that the Australians have had the opportunity to test their speed, put pressure on each other and be in race scenarios during training. The Americans have a two-boat programme that is very similar so over the past three or four months we’ve been making sure we’re doing the best we can with the boats we have and the training group we bring in for them to sail against.”

The IFDS Disabled Sailing Combined World Championships 2011 are being organised, and run, by the RYA, supported by UK Sport. Eleven races are scheduled in total for each class (two races per day Sunday-Thursday and one race on Friday 8 July). Racing is set to resume at 10.55am tomorrow.

IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championships 2011, Weymouth & Portland (after 8 of 11 races):

Sonar (three-person keelboat)
1. Bruno Jourdren-Eric Flageul-Nicolas Vimont-Vicary (FRA),  27pts
2. Dror Cohen-Benni Vexler-Arnon Efrati (ISR), 29 pts
3. John Robertson-Hannah-Stodel-Steve Thomas (GBR), 32pts

SKUD (two-person keelboat)
1. Alexandra Rickham-Niki Birrell (GBR), 13 pts
2. Daniel Fitzgibbon-Liesl Tesch (AUS), 19 pts
3. Jennifer French-Jean Paul Criegnou (USA), 24 pts

2.4mR (one-person keelboat)
1. Thierry Schmitter (NED), 18 pts
2. Helena Lucas (GBR), 35 pts
3. Andre Rademaker (NED), 36pts
4. Megan Pascoe (GBR), 39 pts

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