Australia is one of the top nations on the Paralympic sailing scene and as past International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) Vice President and current President of Sailability Victoria, David Staley, explains, a strong focus of Paralympic sailors leading to Rio will be on the ISAF Sailing World Cup - Melbourne (Sail Melbourne) over the next three years.
Whilst the inclusion of Paralympic Classes in the ISAF Sailing World Cup Events was only formalised last year, Sail Melbourne has led by example, with open events conducted for the single person International 2.4mR since 2002 and the two-person SKUD 18 since 2007, as part of the Olympic and Invited Classes program.
Open events such as the Sail Melbourne Invited Classes allows for all these classes to be sailed by able-bodied athletes with and against sailors with a disability, providing aspiring Paralympians with the increased fleet sizes and keen competition that open competition provides, rather than solely focusing on classified sailing events.
In addition to the Paralympic classes, the less technical single-person Hansa Liberty is offered as an inclusive development class, with Liberty sailors from four Australian states expected in December.
For the 2016 Rio Paralympics aspirants, the IFDS Worlds 2014 in Halifax Canada will be the first qualifying event, while the IFDS Worlds 2015 being held at Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, in conjunction with Sail Melbourne just prior to the ISAF Sailing World Cup event, will be the final nations qualifiers for Rio in each of the Paralympic classes.
The 2015 Worlds will see nations that have already qualified turning up for to race against the biggest fleets and the best sailors that they can find. Whilst for those still hunting for qualification Melbourne will be their final chance for a ticket to Rio.
Yachting Victoria is committed to the growth of the IFDS classes and as such, Paralympic Classification will be available at Sail Melbourne this year. International Classifications are valid for one Paralympic quadrennium, so all athlete classifications must be renewed starting in 2013.
Staley stated how the opportunity to be classified at this event is a major drawcard for the Asia Pacific region’s IFDS athletes.
He explains that the classification process involves anatomical tests, dockside tests and on-water testing and as such is best undertaken at major events where the sailors are brought together. 'There are few opportunities for athlete classifications on a regional basis due to the small number of accredited classifiers and the need to have two IFDS International Classifiers in attendance. Australia is fortunate to have three ICs, however all other classifiers are in Europe or North America.'
Some emerging talent and more seasoned Paralympic campaigners will be using the ISAF Sailing World Cup - Melbourne to show their abilities.
Australia is recognised as a leading nation in the SKUD 18 class, with three teams in the top six results at the IFDS 2011 Worlds in Weymouth, as well as Dan Fitzgibbon coming away with a silver and then a gold medal in the last two Paralympic games.
Ame Barnbrook has teamed up with fellow NSW sailor Brett Pearce to campaign for Rio 2016.
Victorians Russell Phillips and Sally Wilkinson are also in the mix, as are Ross Manning QLD and Kim Ballantyne ACT. These and other Australian sailors will take on Singapore’s Paralympic representatives Jovin Tan and Desiree Lim at the ISAF Sailing World Cup - Melbourne this December.
In the 2.4mR class Tasmania’s Matt Bugg was a strong fourth at the 2013 IFDS Worlds, but there are newcomers in the class who are looking toward possible Paralympic campaigns. Victorian Neil Patterson and Mark Durnan from NSW, sailed in their first international level events in Ireland and the UK this southern winter and are keen to make an impression.
Staley believes that one thing is certain, that the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne and Sail Melbourne Invited classes in 2013 and 2014 will be the perfect opportunities for aspiring Rio campaigners to road test Port Phillip, prior to the 2015 Worlds.
The Notice of Race is available and entries are open in both the Olympic and Invited Classes.
Download the Notice of Race
by Sail Melbourne Media
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4:44 PM Sun 27 Oct 2013GMT
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