by Craig Heydon
London 2012 Paralympic Games gets underway on Saturday 1 September and Australia’s newest Paralympic sailing crew are ready to take on the world’s best in Weymouth and Portland.
Alec Bailey sailing on the broad reaches of the Derwent - London 2012 Paralympic Games
Colin Harrison, Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris only began competing together in January but were quickly up to speed and have been training hard since then to prepare for their shot at a Paralympic Games medal.
Harrison, Churm and Harris were just off the podium at the first event together, finishing fourth at the 2012 IFDS World Championship in Miami, before going one better with a bronze medal at the ISAF Sailing World Cup round in Holland in May.
The Australian trio had their first taste of racing together in Weymouth in June where they finished fifth in their final hit out before the London 2012 Paralympic Games, with the sailing competition beginning on Saturday.
'Our last few months of training have involved a lot of flying between Perth and Sydney with four day weekend training camps,' said skipper Harrison. 'We have been very fortunate with the weather, having lost no days of training which has allowed us a good solid period of time to refine our skills and work on the issues we identified from the international regattas we contested earlier in the year.
'The anticipation of competing at the Paralympics has been very exciting and now that we are here, the opportunity to represent Australia again out on the race course is a real honour,' he said.
While the combination is only new Harrison brings a wealth of Paralympic Games experience, having first competed at Athens 2004 and then winning bronze at Beijing 2008.
'When I look back at Beijing, I have tried to find areas that I could have been better prepared for and over the last four years have looked for opportunities to better myself,' said Harrison. 'At the end of the day I would like to be able to say that I have ‘ticked all the boxes’ and have left nothing to chance for achieving the ultimate sporting goal.'
Jonathan Harris said that the crew had set high expectations for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
'Our expectations are high and our Olympic team mates have certainly been an inspiration,' said Harris. 'We know what we have to do to get a good result and we've spent a lot of time focusing on, and discussing, the 'what-ifs'. We know if we can sail a clean regatta, minimise incidents, and stay out of the protest room, we’ll do well. Even though we are a new combination we seemed to work well on the water from day one.
'This is the ultimate regatta where you are sailing against the world’s best teams,' he said. 'The opportunity to be the best in the world amongst these strong teams would be such a buzz and I can't even start to think what it would be like.'
The sailing competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games begins on Saturday 1 September with medals to be awarded on Thursday 6 September.
Australian Sailing Team website
London 2012 Paralympic Games website