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Record 80 Para entries from 40 nations at the start line of Kiel Week

by segler-zeitung.de on 19 May
Local hero Heiko Kroeger won Kiel Week six times okpress
After the Paralympic end for the sailing sport, the World Sailing Association has made a strategy plan for the next four years from 2017 until 2020.

The objective: The sailing sport shall again be a Paralympic discipline in 2024. A hard way to go, which is leading via Kiel and has its grand opening at the Kiel Week (17. until 25. June). Because during the Kiel Week, Kiel will be hosting the Para World Sailing Championships 2017. So the 2.4mR boats will be sailing as an open class in the first part of the Kiel Week and together with the three other boat classes that are set up for disabled sailors (Hansa 303, Weta and Skut) starting from June 21st.

At the editorial deadline 80 sailors from 40 nations/six continents were on the participants' list of the PWSC, among them two gold medal winners of the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). The Australian sailors Daniel Fitzgibbon/Liesl Tesch did register in the two-man keel skiff Skut, Heiko Kroeger (gold medal 2000 in Sydney and silver medal 2012 in London) will encounter gold medal winner of Rio, Damien Seguin (France), and silver medal winner Matthew Bugg (Australia).

With Dee Smith (USA/Paralympics-4.), Björnar Erikstad (Norway/5.), Antonio Squizzato (Italy/7.) and Niko Salomaa (Finland/8.), almost the entire 2.4mR world's elite will be at the start line in Kiel and shows, that the World Sailing's strategy plan to count on Kiel, is the right decision. For the local hero Kroeger, it will be difficult to win the Kiel Week for the seventh time (open 1. part) and the eighth time (PWSC).

Massimo Dighe, Para World Sailing Manager and London 2012 Paralympian said: “The Para World Sailing Championships is a key step on the road to reinstatement back into the Paralympic Games for sailing and I am delighted that the hard work put in by World Sailing and its stakeholders is paying off.

'The entries feature many new nations and sailors. Competitors from non-traditional Para World Sailing countries such as Chile, Indonesia, Latvia, Macau, Namibia, South Africa, Turkey, Tunisia and Uruguay have got behind the cause and I'm excited to see the competition on the water this coming June.

'While it is encouraging to see so many new nations competing, it is important that we don't lose focus and we continue to move Para World Sailing forward. Hopefully this is just the start of new countries and sailors getting involved and joining us in a sport we love', said Massimo Dighe published on the hompage of World Sailing.

In 1996, sailing was visible due to demonstrations and did make its way to the Paralympics over five years from the Games in Sydney (Australia/2000) until 2016 in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). But in 2020 in Tokyo, sailing is no more part of the Paralympics. The main justification for the end was its minor distribution around the world. So the World Sailing Association is now doing everything to reach the necessary number of 32 countries from three continents to be able to bring sailing back into the game next year at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). To again get the Paralympic status is on of the highest objectives of World Sailing, stated World Sailing's new President Kim Andersson already at his first official visit in Kiel.

Like hardly any other sport, sailing allows the athletic comparison between sportsmen and -women with different types of disabilities and also covers a large variety of disabilities. Already in 2002, the Kieler Woche did demonstrate, that the 2.4mR class is also perfect for the inclusion and for the athletic comparison between disabled and non-disabled sportsmen and -women. Thus the Kiel Week is a model event for the World Sailing Association, that is supporting the Para World Sailing Committee in realising the concept, that has inclusion, variety and the integration of disabled sailors as objectives.

The four steps of the strategy plan includes the most important actions to establish the sailing sport for disabled athletes in 40 countries on four continents. World Sailing is counting on national partners and active sailors. Three so-called regional hotspots shall help to increase the number of nations from 2017 (goal: 32 nations from three continents) to 40 nations from four continents by 2020. The World Sailing Association wants to support the national associations with seminars and training units. And the future Paralympic classes shall be defined until August this year.

Spreading the sport internationally and creating partnerships with boat manufacturers will probably be two cornerstones. On top of that, the sailing sport shall attract more youth and female athletes.

The two-time Paralympic medal winner Heiko Kroeger wishes to include the active sailors more in this process. The two-time medal winner is very clear in his statement: 'The IPC has knocked over with its back, what we have built up with our hands.' Kroeger added: 'There is hardly any sport with more inclusion than the sailing sport, where the cooperation works that well. It is very clear, that this is a political decision, not a rational one, but was decided for other reasons.' With the Paralympic end it did get really difficult to increase the number of nations. In many countries, there are no allowances or financial support with the loss of the Paralympic status, is Kroeger's remark. A problem, which is also known to World Sailing.

Therefore the strategy plan includes the step to cooperate with model events. The focus will be on the inclusion of all degrees of disability, the internationality of the events and the reduction of costs for the participants. Kiel is the ideal partner for this. Kiel has set up a big number of excellent sailing events in the past. 'With our dedication and the support of our partners, we would like to get the biggest attention for the Para World Sailing Championships in Kiel', said the President of World Sailing, Kim Andersen (59/Denmark).

The inclusion of disabled sailors has been a fixed part of the Kieler Woche for many years. In 2002 the Paralympic class, that became Paralympic two years before, was added to the Kiel Week program, and since 2008 disabled and non-disabled sailors are sailing together and against each other at the Kiel Week. 2014 and 2016, even Sonar sailors were starting at the Kiel Week. After the rearrangement of the marina area, the construction of a barrier-free conference site and the installation of a lift, the barrier-free 44m long and 1.80m wide access to pier 1 and several resting areas for short breaks were finished in 2016. Altogether, the federal government, the state and the city of Kiel have invested 269,000 Euro. This means the best prerequisites for the Para World Sailing Championships are done.

To reduce participants' costs, World Sailing offers 100,000 Euro for the active sailors. And the partner for logistics and transport GAC Pindar will support the transport to the Kieler Woche (17. until 25. June) and to the Sailing World Cup in Hyères (France/23. until 30. April).

The third objective of World Sailing are efficient marketing and efficient public relations with the electronic social media being in the centre of that. A world-wide net of stakeholders shall help to improve the public's perception of the disabled sailing sport. 'The Para World Sailing Championships are a model event for World Sailing to show the IPC, which progress we have made to develop and improve the disabled sailing sport. We will continue to work closely together with the active sailors, our members, classes and media', emphasises Andersen, who also counts on the perfect medialisation in Kiel.

It is the biggest challenge to reach the number of participants, that convinces the International Paralympic Committee to again include the maybe most perfect sport for inclusion, the sailing sport, in the circle of Paralympic sports. 'We will do everything to make the Kiel Week be a promotion event to make the sailing sport again be a part of the Paralympics', the Head of Organisation of the Kiel Week regattas, Dirk Ramhorst, is positive. The numbers are correct: More than 80 starters from 40 nations from all six continents cannot be more convincing.
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