International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) World Championships are being held from 7th to 15th January 2012. Australia’s leading Paralympic class sailors have hit the water in Punta Gorda, Florida.
Australia has four crews competing at the event, including Skud 18 crews Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, and Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason, 2.4mR sailor Matt Bugg and the Sonar crew of Colin Harrison, Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris.
Light winds restricted racing on day one of the World Championships with the 2.4mR class the only fleet to see any action, completing two races.
Tasmanian sailor Matt Bugg finished the opening day with a seventh and a 16th in the 22 boat fleet which features a number of former World Champions and Paralympic Games medalists.
Day two greeted the crews with stronger breeze, allowing the Skud 18 and Sonar fleets to get racing underway on Charlotte Harbour.
2011 IFDS World Championship Bronze medalists Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch are the top placed Australian Skud 18 crew in fifth overall, after two third place finishes and an unfortunate disqualification after a lengthy visit to the protest room.
'We were a bit rusty out there but we are certainly in the boat race after the first three races,' said Fitzgibbon. 'Our plan for tomorrow is to work on being consistent and improve our racing.'
Fellow Australians Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason are currently eighth following a sixth and two eighth place finishes.
'Today was an interesting day, we learnt a lot, the results weren't great on the score board but tomorrow is a new day and hopefully we will only improve,' said Barnbrook. 'It was very choppy out there and hopefully tomorrow we’ll go out and have some fun and hopefully come up to the front of the fleet.'
The Sonar crew of Colin Harrison, Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris are also in eighth position, ending their first day of racing with an eighth, a ninth and a seventh.
The trio is competing in their first World Championships together, having only recently teamed up.
'Today we faced a forecast of possible thunderstorms and 40 knot squalls,' said Harrison. 'Quite a contrast to day one.
'Fortunately the breeze was between 10 to 15 knots with a persistent shift to the right and this allowed the Race Committee to schedule three races with our overall results leaving us in eighth place.
'It proved to be a great day of racing in our first outing on the international stage and tomorrow should bring lighter winds and another opportunity to improve our communication and observation skills,' he said.
The 2.4mR class also completed three races, and combined with the two results from day one Matt Bugg is currently in 12th overall.
With considerably stronger winds than the opening day Bugg finished with a 12th, ninth and a 12th with tight racing a highlight of the day.
'I wasn’t all that happy with how I sailed today,' said Bugg. 'I’m now 12th overall so I’ve dropped a place since day one but tomorrow I’ll stick to my game plan and execute it.'
Full results are available on the event website
. Australian Sailing Team website