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Dominant day for the British the Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition

by Richard Aspland, World Sailing 15 Sep 2016 07:42 BST 12 September 2016

Domination was the word of the third day at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition as Great Britain's two-time Three Person Keelboat (Sonar) World Champions finally announced their arrival out on Guanabara Bay.

John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas (GBR) have a wealth of experience behind them and are at their fourth Paralympic Games, but the first two days have not gone to plan for the 2015 world champions. Three bullets from three races was a tonic that was desperately needed to boost their chances, undoubtedly giving them performance of the day.

In a very close second for that accolade were defending Two Person Keelboat (SKUD18) Paralympic champions, Australia's Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, who day by day eek out more of a lead on their rivals. In the One Person Keelboat (2.4 Norlin OD) it is still anyone's guess as the positions continue to trade as the discard comes in to play for all three fleets.

Three Person Keelboat – Sonar

Race day three. Three people in a boat. Three races. Three wins. If three isn't the lucky number for Great Britain's Robertson, Stodel and Thomas then it certainly should be after today.

Languishing in the bottom half of the fleet with a 11,9,14 on the scorecard it looked like the chase for a medal was over before it had begun for the British team. Whatever went on in the nightly debrief after day two, it definitely worked.

Not giving too much away, Thomas said, "Some of the stuff we talked about last night in the debrief we came out on the water today and implemented."

He continued, "The debrief from last night was mainly to believe. Which then allowed us to follow our plan. So believe and then execute with a positive mindset. We love the medium to strong breeze and we have been working on a few techniques with our new coach which are working."

If the team is to continue up the leaderboard and get a first Paralympic medal in their fourth attempt, they will need a lot more of that belief that worked so well, but they also need boats around them to falter. For Thomas though, their destiny is still in their own hand's, "All we have to do is worry about our own performance and not worry about the others. Having three firsts makes you feel positive and I'm not sure how that has helped us with the overall scores. The boat is going well now, and we can't influence others.

"For us it is about sticking to our processes and coming out strong and delivering on what we can do. If we can then be in the medal zone we will be happy."

The Britons now sit in fifth place on 23 points.

Still leading the way are the Australian team of Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Jonathan Harris who posted two second places and a discarded seventh for the day to leave the team on 12 points. They are followed in second by 2016 world champions Alphonsus Doerr, Hugh Freund and Bradley Kendell (USA) who rocketed up from seventh place with a 2,3,3 to finish on 18 points.

New Zealand's Richard Dodson, Andrew May and Chris Sharp are third on 21 points with London 2012 bronze medallists, Norway's Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Marie Solberg and Per Eugen Kristiansen just one point back on 22.

Two Person Keelboat – SKUD18

Tasting success at the London 2012 Paralympic Games has obviously left Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch hungry for more as yet again they leave the Marina da Gloria at the end of a race day top of the leaderboard.

Fitzgibbon has previously summed up his partnership with Tesch saying that he was 'the still water to her rapids', and in true form he calmly and quietly described the day, "The key ingredient to being successful was just keeping it together, keeping your head on and just keeping on sailing. That's all we could do and just try and do as well as we could."

Three races and scoring a 1,2,1 has taken its toll on the Aussie, but it doesn't matter, there's a gold medal at stake, "The conditions were opposite from yesterday. A real test of endurance, crazy. But in sailing we get everything and that's why we love it." He continued, "I'm pretty tired after three races today and a long day yesterday. I'm keen to get home, recover and be back tomorrow."

With Fitzgibbon and Tesch top on six points, leading the chase behind the flying Aussies is now Great Britain's Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell who started the day well, but ran in to trouble with their boat, "Unfortunately for race three today, during start sequence we were fine. Gearing up ready. But our gib sheet fell off or snapped or something and we had to retire. It was unfortunate because we had gained some momentum today."

The momentum they gained was from a bullet and second place which did eventually help move them up the leaderboard as everyone else around them also fell foul in the final race of the day.

The Britons are in second with 14 points with Canada's John McRoberts and Jackie Gay just behind on 16 points after they scored a 3,4 and a discarded 12th. Current world champions mirrored the Canadians scores with a 3,4,12, but due to an earlier round disqualification they have to carry the double digit score. They have 24 points in fourth.

One Person Keelboat – 2.4 Norlin OD

The one fleet that missed the memo about domination was the 2.4 Norlin OD. Touted as the widest open of the three fleets, the sailors are definitely living up to the tag as six sailors are separated by just six points.

Germany's Heiko Kroeger is one of, if not the most experienced sailor in the fleet, so who better to ask about the changing positions and ever changing leaderboard, "It's tough competition and this race course is very difficult to sail. The competition is very close in the 2.4. There is a lot of sailors who can sail fast and sometimes they might not have that experience in winning medals, but they are still very hard to beat. Although this is a small fleet, it is still a very hard competition."

Kroeger has a Paralympic gold medal and multiple world championship titles under his belt, and he is hoping this could give him the edge when push comes to shove and the competition nears its end, "Experience is important. If you have to think about what you should do, you are already too late. Things need to be automatic. So if you have lots of experience your reaction is different and your tactical decision are different and you're able to decide faster. And hopefully the right decisions and this is the difference between experience or not."

Currently sitting top is the defending Paralympic champion from Great Britain, Helena Lucas. Despite a good first two days of competition she could not carry the consistency through with a 3,4 and a discarded 10th to give her 10 points overall.

Australia's Matt Bugg was consistent, but only in comparison to the rest of the fleet with a 1,3,5 which moves him to second on the leaderboard with 12 points.

The big German Kroeger has the same points tally as Bugg but will be disappointed with a second, fifth and discarded 12th. Another world champion, France's Damien Seguin is just one point behind on 13 points. USA's Dee Smith is on 15. On 16 points is Norway's Bjornar Erikstad who started with a bullet but followed up with a respectable fourth and a discarded 11th.

The fleet fall away after Erikstad with a ten-point gap to Italy's Antonio Squizzato in seventh.

Racing continues at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition on Wednesday 14 September as all fleets are scheduled for three races. The SKUD18 are on the Escola Naval course at 12:00 local time with the 2.4 Norlin OD at 12:10. The Sonars race on the Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) area at 12:00.

Team USA Sonar Climbs Leaderboard (from US Sailing)

A strong breeze filled in early on the third day of racing at the 2016 Paralympic Games sailing competition, providing an exciting change of pace for the adaptive athletes in the Sonar, SKUD-18 and 2.4mR fleets. Team USA made gains on Day 3, and remains firmly in the hunt for the podium.

Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Brad Kendell (Tampa, Fla.) and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine) had an excellent day of racing, with a 2, 3, 3 scoreline. The Americans were the second-best performers on Day Three, behind only the British boat, which won all three races in moderate to heavy breeze. Wednesday's action moved Doerr, Kendell and Freund, the reigning World Champions, from 7th overall to 2nd with three days remaining in the regatta.

"One thing we did well today was keep our cool," said Doerr, a two-time Paralympian, two time Para Sailing World Champion and member of the U.S. Sailing Team for over 18 years. "We were fouled twice, but we didn't let it get in the way. We stayed patient, kept our heads out of the boat, and placed ourselves well on the course. We probably weren't the fastest boat out there today, but we sailed smart."

Ryan Porteous (San Diego, Calif.) and Beijing 2008 gold medalist Maureen McKinnon (Marblehead, Mass.) had finishes of 5, 6, 2 to move up to 5th place overall. The team sailed well despite dealing with some equipment problems in the high winds. "We broke our boom vang at the beginning if the second race today, which made it hard to sail upwind," said Porteous. "Our main was flogging in the heavy breeze [after the breakdown], and we weren't fast. We eventually passed a few boats though, and were happy about that." McKinnon said that after they got the problem fixed, they were pleased to submit their best performance of the regatta to date, a 2nd place in Race 6. "It was nice to get everything working, and sail the way we know we can."

Dee Smith (Annapolis, Md.) had an up-and-down day in the 2.4mR, with scores of 8, 6, 1, his second race victory of the regatta. The 8th is now Smith's discard race, and he moved from 3rd overall to 5th. The standings remain quite tight, with only six points separating 1st overall from 6th. Smith described Thursday, with three races scheduled, as "moving day," and said he's focused on staying consistent.

Aussies revel in the stronger conditions in Rio (from Australian Sailing)

Australia's Paralympic sailors have enjoyed near perfect sailing conditions in Rio overnight, with strong breezes of 12-15 knots, at times gusting over 20 knots and perfect cloudless skies. The Aussies made the most of the conditions and at the end of the day the Aussie crews are leading in the Sonar and SKUD18 classes and lying second overall in the 2.4mR.

In the 2.4mR, Matt Bugg came out hard and fast after the disappointment of no racing yesterday. Bugg finished third in his first race of the day, then demonstrated absolute control in the second race, leading convincingly from start to finish. In the final race he was in the leading group for the entire race, but got rolled right before the finish line and crossed in fifth place.

"Today was a good confidence builder for me," said Bugg at the conclusion of racing. "I was never really out of the top three, apart from the last 10 seconds of the final race. That is very hard to do in a Paralympic fleet.

"It was a long day. It was very windy when we first got out there – right on the limit. I tend to go fast in those conditions. Overall it was a good day for me - I started off in equal third and moved up into second overall."

Bugg is only two points off the leader of the fleet, Helena Lucas from Great Britain. However, the overall standings in the fleet are extremely tight with only six points between first and sixth on the leaderboard.

In the SKUD18, Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch continue to be the boat to beat on the racecourse. The Aussies won the first race of the day, but had to fight their way back up from third after a slightly slower start. In the second race the team from Great Britain came out hard and fast and the Aussies weren't able to get in front of them so had to be content with second place at the finish line. However, in the final race of the day they led from start to finish, with a dominant display.

"Today was an incredibly hard day with three races," said Fitzgibbon when he came off the water. "We had a lot of wind and big waves. We just had to keep our heads on and do as well as we could. It was a test of endurance after the long day yesterday. We've had a bit of everything at this regatta, but that's why we love sailing."

Fitzgibbon and Tesch lead the SKUD18 fleet overall, eight points clear of Great Britain in second place.

Australia's Sonar team of Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Jonathan Harris had a tough first race today. The Aussies fought their way back through the fleet to cross the finish line in seventh place. In the second and third races of the day, it was only the team from Great Britain who got ahead of the Aussies. GBR won both races, while the Aussies finished second in both. The Aussies have a six-point lead on the team from USA in the overall standings, and will be looking for another strong performance tomorrow.

Kiwi Parasailing Team in 3rd at halfway mark Rio 2016 (from Yachting New Zealand)

New Zealand's Parasailing Sonar team are back into 3rd overall after three races sailed today in Rio at the 2016 Paralympic Games with competition now passed the halfway mark.

Dodson, May and Sharp went 4, 6, 4 in the Sonar class racing today and are just three points behind USA, while the Aussies hold the lead.

Yesterday conditions in Rio were light and tricky, but today brought stronger breeze. Dodson spoke after racing about the conditions and their performance; "We thought we were doing a smart thing we had light air sails on. Speed wise, I think we're good."

"There were gusts of 25 knots – quite breezy, so we're happy enough. We got two 4ths and a 6th so we're happy."

"We're lying 3rd right now, which is a really good goal I think – to medal would be fantastic."

While the Australian team of Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Jonathan Harris have a five point leading margin, points on the leader-board are close through the top half of the 14 boat fleet and the remaining three days of the regatta will be crucial.

Talking about their team he said, "I've been very lucky, and through my sailing all these years I've done very well. These two guys – Chris Sharp and Andrew May – they've been very good, so I'm happy with our team. I think the whole team is good. I think that's what it's all about, and we enjoy it, we're having fun."

Yesterday Dodson's team-mate Chris Sharp spoke very passionately about the positive experience of competing in Rio at the Paralympic Games and today Dodson was asked if he felt the same way;

"Of course, because I have MS and I've sailed America's Cup and everything else, and I sort of think okay, I've got MS and I'm 55 years of age, and you know, I'm getting a bit old. But now I can do it again with Parasailing and I enjoy it and I enjoy all the people that are involved with this – it's a good bunch. It's really good."

Dodson knows that winning a medal in Rio would provide the platform to bring Parasailing into the spotlight in New Zealand.

"I really do want to get Parasailing up and running a bit better in New Zealand. I think we can do well, and everyone who has a problem with their ability to do things, you know they can get involved with parasailing – give it a go, its fun!"

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