Three new Paralympic World Champions have been crowned in Kinsale at the Cork County Council IFDS World Sailing Championships. In the three-man Sonar class it was Frenchman Bruno Jourdren and his crew Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary who emerged victorious. In the two-man Skud 18 fleet Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell from the British Sailing Team who deservedly took the honours while Heiko Kroger from Germany scooped gold in the largest of the fleets; the 2.4mR class.
Racing began at 11am in 12 knots but with poor visibility. Luckily the mist soon lifted, the clouds parted and the Sonar class sailed three races while the Skud and 2.4mRs completed two successful races each.
Bruno Jourdren and his crew proved unstoppable in the Sonar fleet. They led the regatta from the first dayâ€™s racing and never relinquished pole position. Friday was yet another successful day for the trio who finished second and fourth in the first two races and then won the final race and the overall championship with an impressive 13 point lead. Udo Hessels from the Netherlands sailed consistently for the nine race regatta notching up six top three finishes including two bullets. He and his crew created a substantial 11 point gap between themselves and their Australian rivals to take the silver. Also sailing well and securing all top 10 results for the duration, Colin Harrison from Australia claimed the bronze. Providence Team IRL Paralympic sailor John Twomey and his crew Ian Costello and Anthony Hegarty were the best of the Irish finishing in 9th place.
In the Skud 18 fleet Alexandra Rickham from the UK and her crew Niki Birrell were the runaway winners. They won both of their two races on Friday bringing their total race wins to six out of seven. This left Italyâ€™s Marco Gualandris and Canadian John McRoberts to battle it out for the silver and bronze medals. Throughout the week these opposing sailors have been jostling back and forth, both never finishing a race outside of the top three. But in Race 6 it was Marco Gualandris who finished ahead of John McRoberts giving him a healthy four point cushion. Although John McRoberts went on to beat Marco Gualandris in the final race, it wasnâ€™t enough and so he returns to Canada with the bronze medal while Italy claimed the silver.
The seventh and final race for the 2.4mR class was thrilling. Heiko Kroger from Germany and Guus Bijlard from the Netherlands were tied on equal points at the top of the 45 boat fleet and only four points behind them was Damien Seguin from France. The prestigious world Paralympic title came down to this final race. The three sailors were neck and neck, chasing each other ferociously around the course. But ultimately it was Guus Bijlard who just pipped Heiko Kroger to the finish line and to the title. Damien Seguin sailed in behind for a third in the race and also in the championship.
Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision