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Sail Melbourne International presents inaugural Australian Para Sailing Championships

by Michael Martin 10 Dec 2018 22:58 PST 12-16 December 2018
Australian Para-Sailing Squad's Neil Patterson - 2018 Sail Melbourne International © Cate Brown

Australia's best para sailors, including 2018 Para World Sailing Championships gold medallist Chris Symonds (TAS), will be competing for national titles when the inaugural Australian Para Sailing Championships debut at Sail Melbourne International on Thursday, 13 December 2018.

The Australian Para Sailing Championships will be held in conjunction with the 2018 Sail Melbourne International regatta at Royal Brighton Yacht Club from Thursday 13 to 16 December 2018. Para sailors will compete alongside their able-bodied colleagues at the Olympic and Invited classes regatta with results for the classified sailors to determine the Australian Para Sailing Champions in four classes. Sailors with a wide range of disabilities from all across Australia will compete in the 2.4mR, Hansa 303 one-person, Hansa 303 two-person and SKUD 18.

"Sail Melbourne has featured the para classes with inclusive competition for almost 20 years, but now results will also be extracted from the open class competition for the National Para Sailing Championships", Mark Taylor, Co-Chair of Sail Melbourne's Race Management Committee, explained.

Australian Para Sailing Squad sailor and Melbourne local Neil Patterson is excited about the new addition to Sail Melbourne International and the opportunities the Para-sailing National Championships will bring for sailing as an inclusive sport. He is looking forward to some tight racing across the classes on Port Phillip and out of his home club Royal Brighton Yacht Club.

"Sailing is a unique sport that allows people with a wide range of disabilities to compete on an even level with able bodied people. Being able to leave the dock and be in control of a boat is more freedom than some of the athletes have in their daily lives. I'm proud that the first Para nationals is at my home club and about the support we have from the sailors and volunteers for this event," Patterson said about the significance of the event.

"There is a great fleet in the SKUD18 this year with several boats travelling down from Queensland. We also have a strong representation in the HANSA 303 and 2.4mR. It's great to see sailors from all corners of Australia, with athletes from Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania all descending on Brighton for the first Para nationals. I see this being the beginning of a great tradition and another dynamic to Sail Melbourne International," Patterson added.

Patterson, who most recently finished eleventh in the 2.4mR at the 2018 Para World Championships in September, is one of the favourites for the event that will miss Paralympic silver medallist and 2018 World Champion Matt Bugg.

"It's a shame Matt (Bugg) can't make this regatta as I know how much he loves Sail Melbourne. But there is some very stiff competition from around the country so anything can happen. The 2.4mR nationals will be held at Brighton over the Australia Day weekend, so the Para nationals are a great event leading up to the nationals and a chance to see how I line up against the fleet after the Worlds in Sheboygan, USA."

Apart from the 2.4mR, racing will take place in the SKUD18 as well as in the Hansa 303, which will premiere at Sail Melbourne and has attracted a strong fleet spearheaded by class 2018 Para World Sailing World Champion Chris Symonds. The Hansa 303, designed by Australian Chris Mitchell, has been sailed in Para World Championships since 2017 and is popular with inclusive sailing programs around the world.

Para-sailing has been a strong focus of this year's Sail Melbourne International with Australian Sailing also hosting the first World Sailing Oceania Paralympic Development Program for sailors and coaches from emerging sailing nations at Royal Brighton this week, as well as a para-sailing training camp.

All of these initiatives are important to the further development of para-sailing and to grow sailing as an inclusive sport, while the sport is at the same time working on its re-instatement in to the Paralympic program as Patterson explains.

"It is important to develop the Para Nationals and maintain Paralympic sailing training camps to allow disabled sailing to grow in our community. The intent of the Para Nationals is to give our grassroot athletes something to aspire to - either to compete at the nationals or to work towards representing Australia overseas at the Worlds."

"The para camps help up-and-comers gain the skills they need to progress in our sport. It's important to maintain a pathway to representing Australia, even if not in the Paralympics, to inspire clubs and individuals and motivate more people towards our sport."

Sail Melbourne International starts on Thursday, 13 December at Royal Brighton Yacht Club with racing concluding on Sunday, 16 December 2018.

See entries here.

Follow results here.

For more information visit www.sailmelbourne.com.au

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