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Paralympics London 2012 - SKUD18 competition

'Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch,(AUS) racing in the Skud class on the day 1 of the Skandia Sail for Gold'    onEdition ©

When the SKUD18 Paralympic Sailing Competition gets underway Australia's Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch and Great Britain's Alex Rickham and Niki Birrell will be the teams to beat.

From September 1, 11 SKUD18s will take to the water to fight it out in an 11-race series for the two-person keelboat Paralympic medals. Competition concludes September 6.

In the build-up to the Paralympic Sailing Competition the Australians and Brits have dominated the class. During the 2011-12 ISAF Sailing World Cup just one point separated the two at the end of four sailed regattas with the Brits coming out on top.

Rickham, aged 30, started sailing in Jamaica after a diving accident and teamed up with Birrell in late 2007, only to sail a disappointing fifth at Beijing 2008. They switched roles after Beijing and have been unbeaten in world championships for the last four years, winning this year's IFDS Disabled World Championships in Florida, USA.

'We have grown up a lot since not getting anything in China,' said Rickham. 'I think we are a much better crew now. We are a good combination because we are such different personalities.'

The pair have a good record on Paralympic waters having won gold at the 2011 World Championship and more recently at an ISAF World Cup event in June. This added to a victory in Melbourne last December and a silver in Miami in January and silver in Hyeres has put them in a good place to banish their Beijing demons.

Alexandera Rickham and Niki Birrell, (GBR) racing in the Skud class on the day 1 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta -  onEdition ©   Click Here to view large photo

But in a competitive fleet the pair aren't getting complacent. 'Everyone brings their 'A' game,' said Birrell. 'The Australians are fast, but so are the Canadians, the Americans and the Israelis. We know we are fast. We just have to start well and not make mistakes.'

At Beijing 2008 Fitzgibbon, sailing with Rachael Cox, took silver medal in the class behind the American gold-winning crew of Nick Scandone and Maureen Mckinnon-Tucker. Fitzgibbon and crew Tesch, a former Paralympic basketball player, formed their partnership in 2011 and hit the right note almost immediately.

Fitzgibbon and Tesch have finished on the podium at every event they've sailed in together and know what it takes to beat the Brits. They will be key contenders when racing gets underway.

Canada will field John Mcroberts and Stacie Louttit who took the Beijing bronze behind the Australians, while New Zealand will be represented by Tim Dempsey and Jan Freda Apel who are at their first Paralympic Games but finished second on Paralympic waters in June.

Disabled Sailing London 2012 Paralympic website


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10:50 PM Thu 30 Aug 2012GMT


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