by Craig Heydon
Australia’s Paralympic class sailors will battle for medals and positions at the London 2012 Paralympic Games with one race remaining at the 2011 IFDS World Championships.
Matt Bugg,2.4m, AUS 1. IFDS Worlds 2011
Australian crews are in a position to win a medal in the Skud 18 class and qualify the country for London 2012 in the 2.4mR and Sonar classes.
With one race left to contest on Friday the Skud 18 crew of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch are guaranteed at least a Bronze medal but will be chasing their American competitors hard to grab the Silver.
Fitzgibbon and Tesch went into Thursday six points off the lead in second overall, finishing the day with an eighth and a third after gear breakage, but the American crew of Jennifer French and Jean-Paul Creignou had a perfect day on the water with two race wins, leapfrogging the Australians into second.
The Australian pair is four points off the Silver medal and with Great Britain’s Alexandra Rickham and Nikki Birrell having done enough to win the title with a race to spare, Fitzgibbon and Tesch will be focused on their American competition.
'Today started off really well and we were winning the first race but while in front we tore the headboard out of the mainsail,' said Fitzgibbon. 'The main fell to the deck but we still were able to limp home, finishing eighth.
'In between races the team did an awesome job dropping the rig, retrieving the halyard and sewing up the main,' he said. 'With the jury rig we salvaged a third in the second race, so a tough day for us.
Fellow Australian’s Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason are sixth overall, one place ahead of Jamie Dunross and Rachael Cox.
Barnbrook and Mason finished with a ninth and a fifth, while Dunross and Cox had a third in race one before not finishing race two.
Heading into the final race Tasmanian sailor Matt Bugg sits 15th overall in the 2.4mR class, and if he remains in that position will qualify Australia for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Bugg needs to stay ahead of the Italian sailor in 17th overall to get Australia to the Games, and with a 29 point lead just needs to sail a clean race on Friday.
'Tomorrow Matt just needs to keep clean and there is a chance of moving up one or two places,' said coach Richard Scarr. '12th overall, which was our original goal, is looking doubtful but qualifying for the Paralympic Games is the main goal.'
Bugg had a mixed on Thursday, fighting his way back from 45th to finish 20th in race one, before having a much better race two and finishing 14th.
Australia’s Sonar crew of Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Rod Angwin have already done enough this week to qualify Australia for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, no matter what happens in the final race.
The trio is 12th overall and well ahead of the Japanese crew that currently have the final position for London 2012.
Harrison, Boaden and Angwin finished day five with a 13th and an 11th, and are seven points off 10th position.
'We had tough racing today with an irregular shifting breeze,' said Harrison. 'The racing is very close as we have only one race remaining but we’re happy that we’ve qualified Australia for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.'
Fellow Australians Stephen Churm, Jonathan Harris and Jason Elwes sit 16th overall, with a 17th and a 13th in Thursday’s two races.
Australian Sailing Team website
Full results IFDS Worlds website