Please select your home edition
Edition
Ancasta Ker 33 728x90

Double Gold for GBR at Paralympic sailing test

by Lindsey Bell/RYA on 16 May 2008
SKUD - British sailors Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham © Rolex / Dan Nerney

Members of the British Paralympic Sailing Squad for the 2008 Games in September passed their first test on Paralympic waters in Qingdao, China, winning two gold medals to top the medal table at the IFDS Qingdao International Regatta on Thursday - Gold for Sonar crew of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, and the SKUD pairing of Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham.

The five-day regatta – the one and only test event for the Paralympic classes sailors ahead of the Games in September – saw the Sonar crew of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, and the SKUD pairing of Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham come out on top against strong international competition.

Beijing representative Helena Lucas and training partner Megan Pascoe were also within touching distance of the podium, finishing in fourth and fifth places respectively in the 2.4mR single-handed class.

Robertson, Stodel and Thomas’s Qingdao victory comes off the back of the title they won three weeks ago at the French Olympic Sailing Week in Hyeres (FRA) where they dominated the Sonar fleet.

The Paralympic race course proved a challenge for the Skandia Team GBR sailors, with big waves and conditions ranging from four to 22 knots, with the Sonar crew also handed a disqualification in race three of the nine-race series for a startline incident with the French boat.

But the British trio shook off their disappointment to take gold by six points over the French team.

Robertson explained: 'It’s pretty special being here in the Paralympic venue, and staying in the Olympic Village – it’s a full dress rehearsal for the Games so we’re really pleased to have done well, and we’ve learned a lot by being here.

'The whole team has just got on really well and has had a great time, enjoying the experience – I think some of the other teams have been a bit intimidated by it all.'

Robertson continued: 'The next three months are going to be very interesting. The other teams have been asking some searching questions of us – how old our boat is, how much we weigh! I think we’ve just been sailing consistently well as a team, Hannah’s been making some good calls and we’ve got good speed.'

For Birrell and Rickham, their Qingdao gold marks a meteoric rise to form in the class, with the pair only joining forces in the SKUD for the first time at the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta in January. They took bronze at their second event, the US Disabled-Open Midwinters in St Petersburg, USA which ultimately earned their nomination to ParalympicsGB for the Beijing Games.

The 26-year-old Rickham enthused 'It’s absolutely amazing – this is just the third regatta we’ve done, and all the lessons we’ve learned have paid off. It’s been a difficult week with the conditions we’ve had, but we’ve dealt with it well, which is a sign of how much we’ve improved.

'We came here wanting a medal, so to have won a gold is just amazing, but even so it is just a step towards those medals in September and the main thing is how much we’ve learned by being here.

'Everybody is so excited to have us here,' she continued. 'People have come out to watch us on the wall every day, drumming and cheering, and as a team we’ve really been able to feed off that.'

Birrell, 21, added: 'It was pretty difficult and we didn’t have it all our own way. Any event you win is great, but this has been amazing and our coach Harvey [Hillary] has worked really hard with us.'

Although finishing just outside of the medals in fourth in the 2.4mR class, 33-year-old Helena Lucas shared her teammates’ delight. 'I’m obviously a bit frustrated to have missed out on a medal this time, but the team’s done brilliantly and there’s been a great team spirit.'

She explained: 'It’s been a pretty tough week for me. I’ve been using a 16-year-old boat which I shipped out a year ago and had only ever planned to use for training – it had never been raced before. The boat was overweight so had a few issues, and was sinking quite a bit in the windy conditions we had earlier in the week!

'When the conditions got lighter, things started to fall back into place – I had an awesome day yesterday which pulled me right back up, but things didn’t quite go to plan today. It was a good battle and the main lesson for me this week was that it’s never over until the last race. After the second day I was down in ninth overall but managed to pull back – you have to keep going as you’re always in with a chance. '

RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park was delighted with the team’s performance: 'The aim was to win one medal at this event, so to go home with two golds is fantastic. The sailors all faced a number of challenges during the event, and didn’t certainly didn’t have it all their own way.

'The Sonar and SKUD crews have done very well it was good to see a burst of speed from Helena towards to the end of the week. Crucially, for Niki and Alex to have won their first ever event in the Paralympic waters will be a huge confidence boost for them they return for the Games later this year.'

The 2008 Qingdao squad:
Niki Birrell, Knutsford, Cheshire
Helena Lucas, Southampton
Alexandra Rickham, Epsom, Surrey
John Robertson, Sunderland
Hannah Stodel, West Mersea, Essex
Stephen Thomas, Cardiff
Megan Pascoe, Ardingly, West Sussex

Read more on the sailors’ experiences of life in Qingdao in their Test Event blog at www.skandiateamgbr.com
Barz Optics - FloatersNaiadMackay Boats

Related Articles

Qingdao might spell the Future of Sailing
’The explosion of sailing in Asia is both a joyous and a sad time for this European dominated sport.’ As Kjell Borking, the Vice President of EUROSAF, the peak European sailing body commented today at the 2010 International Sailing Forum in Qingdao ‘’The explosion of sailing in Asia is both a joyous and a sad time for this European dominated sport.’
Posted on 22 Aug 2010
Elliott 6 metre selected for 2012 Olympics
The ISAF Council followed its usual conservative approach today when it opted for the same classes The ISAF Council followed a conservative approach today when it opted for the same classes to contest the same events in the 2012 Olympic as they had done in the 2008 Olympics. The only addition is the introduction of the Elliott 6 metre in the Womens Match Racing event, which will make its debut at the 2012 Olympics.
Posted on 15 Nov 2008
Ainslie and Sensini win ISAF Rolex Sailor Awards
Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Alessandra Sensini (ITA) winners of the ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year Awards Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Alessandra Sensini (ITA) have just been announced as the winners of the ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year Awards at a dinner in Madrid, Spain
Posted on 12 Nov 2008
Not time to change Olympic windsurfer says Pryde
A proposal to switch windsurfing boards for 2012 Games from existing Neil Pryde RS:X to a new Formula board. At this weeks ISAF meeting amongst the agenda items is a proposal to switch windsurfing boards for the 2012 London Olympic Games from the existing Neil Pryde RS:X to a new Starboard built Formula board.
Posted on 3 Nov 2008
Tornado moots one design for 11th Olympic medal
discussions were underway within the IOC with regards to a submission submitted by Paul Henderson The structure of the Tornado class has gone through many changes over the past 11 months. The Tornado Class/Multihull community became to complacent believing that multihull was safe and would always be part of the Olympic program, this lead to a major shock to us all at the 2007 Annual ISAF meeting in November.
Posted on 21 Oct 2008
ISAF Working Party support NZ design for Olympics
ISAF working party supports Elliott 6m be chosen as the equipment for the 2012 Olympics in the new Womens Match Racing A Working Party from the International Sailing Federation has made a submission to the International Sailing Federation supporting the previous submission from Yachting New Zealand that the Elliott 6m be chosen as the equipment for the 2012 Olympics in the new Womens Match Racing Event.
Posted on 6 Oct 2008
Slingsby stumbled in Qingdao. What Happened?
Tom Slingsby was a gold medal favourite going into the Olympic regatta. Tom talks about what happened and the future. Australia's Laser sailor Tom Slingsby was the gold medal favourite going into the Olympic regatta. But he had a shocker, finishing 22nd overall. Now Tom talks about what happened and the road ahead.
Posted on 25 Sep 2008
Balboa Yacht Club welcomes Paralympic sailing hero
United Airlines delivered precious cargo to Orange County's John Wayne Airport this afternoon. United Airlines delivered precious cargo to Orange County's John Wayne Airport this afternoon. Over 100 Balboa Yacht Club members, friends and family welcomed home Paralympic Gold Medallist, Nick Scandone; his wife, Mary Kate; his loyal friend and coach, Mike Pinckney and his devoted brother, Vince (Rock).
Posted on 19 Sep 2008
If Everyone could have seen them dance .....
If everyone could have seen them dance like no one was watching Spending the last two weeks with the sailors, coaches, assistants, friends, families, care givers and International Association of Disabled Sailors (IFDS) officials during the 2008 Paralympics Sailing Regatta in Qingdao, China was the most rewarding experience of my career as a sailing journalist. These people are amazing!
Posted on 17 Sep 2008
An exciting finale to the 2008 Paralympic Sailing
An exciting finale to the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition in Qingdao An exciting finale to the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition in Qingdao ended with gold medals going to Canada's Paul Tingley in the 2.4 Metre, US pair Nick Scandone and Maureen Mckinnon-Tucker in the SKUD18 and German trio Jens Kroker, Robert Prem and Siegmund Mainka in the Sonar.
Posted on 15 Sep 2008