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Rio 2016 - Rickham and Birrell relish Day 1 Rio 'Battle'

by RYA on 13 Sep 2016
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell sailing Paul Wyeth / British Sailing Team
SKUD18 helm Alexandra Rickham described she and Niki Birrell’s opening day of the Rio 2016 Paralympics as “quite a battle” after an eventful two races on Guanabara Bay today (Monday 12 September).

Having posted a decent first race result of fourth, things got lively in the day’s second race as, when sat in second position, the Brits took a penalty turn for infringing the boat of Polish World Champions, Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki.

But once off the water it was the turn of the London 2012 bronze medallists to challenge an action of the Poles in the protest room, when they felt they had been impeded by Gibes and Cichocki at the first top mark of race two but the Poles did not do the required penalty turn themselves.

The International Jury found in favour of Rickham and Birrell meaning the Poles were disqualified from race two and the five-time World Champion Brits ended the day with scores of four, three to put them in fourth overall in the early standings.

Rickham believes they have given themselves a decent platform to move forwards from into the rest of the regatta.

She said: “It was quite a battle today. In the first race we had a slightly dodgy start but in the second race we had a stunner of a start.

“In that first race we got caught up in the fleet along the way, but we were pretty happy with the fourth to be honest, it’s a counter I think.

“Then the second race we had the two incidents with Polish. We did our spin for the second one because we were in the wrong. Ultimately getting the third in the race means it is a pretty solid start. The Games are on and there is a lot to play for. You never know what is going to happen in Rio.”

Defending London 2012 champions, Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS), enjoyed the best first day on the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) course, scoring a first and second from their two races to take an early regatta lead.

Canada’s Beijing 2008 bronze medallist, John McRoberts, now sailing with his British-born wife, Jackie Gay, are in second overall with three-time Para Sailing Worlds medallists, Marco Gualandris and Marta Zanetti (ITA) in third.

Rickham admits although not unhappy with their start, she and Birrell need to kick on from today to really begin to establish themselves among the medal challengers.

She added: “The main contenders are all up there fighting and the Australians had a really good day. The course was a bit difficult at times, the pressure was up and down and it was really hot, the downwind was quite painful.

“But I think we did the best that we could, battling back when we got a bit stuck in the fleet. The reality is we need to get to the front and be able to hold on. It was a beautiful sailing day, we are both in good spirits and looking forward to tomorrow.”

All SKUD18’s are scheduled to contest an 11 race series each, with two races per day from Monday 12 – Friday 16 September before one final series race for each class, after which the medals will be awarded, on Saturday 17 September.
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