Rio markers set at 2016 Para World Sailing Championships during the Delta Lloyd Regatta, as Germany, Poland and USA secure gold

The 2016 Para World Sailing Championships in Medemblik during the Delta Lloyd Regatta came to a thrilling conclusion on Saturday in near summer conditions with a building breeze though the day and a warm northerly providing challenging racing across the three fleets.

The 2.4 Norlin OD was up first with Heiko Kroger (GER) capitalising on his overnight lead to take his ninth world title. Next, Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki (POL) won the SKUD18 with a race to spare before Alphonsus Doerr, Hugh Freund and Brad Kendell (USA) won the Sonar class after an incredibly close final race that went right down to the wire.

For all of them a marker has been set down as they begin final preparations to the Rio Paralympics.

Here’s a class by class summary of the action on the final day in Medemblik.

While the other para fleets were reasonably secure the 16 boat Sonar fleet kept everyone guessing right down to the final leg. Alphonsus Doerr/Hugh Freund/Brad Kendell (USA) had led overnight twice and held a four point margin into the final day. Victory was not secure until the end of the tense final leg, with a third place enough to take the world title.

But it was a real fight to get there. A fourth in the first race of the day reduced the American lead to three points and going into the final race there were still only six points separating the top four boats. The title could still have gone to any of them. Colin Harrison/Jonathan Harris/Russell Boaden (AUS) made the best start in the final race with John Robertson/Hannah Stodel/Stephen Thomas (GBR) close behind. The Americans trailed in ninth at the top mark and make a huge recovery downwind to round third. On the final downwind the British team found a way past to win the race and take silver from the Australians who had to settle for bronze. The separation at the end between the medalists was just three points.

Kendall explained the final decisive race. “The last race of the day, last race of the regatta, we knew who we had to cover and we were happy with our start, we knew where they were. The first shift we actually didn’t sail to the right side that we wanted to and we had to fight our way back, but we did that.”

“This world championship was a very tight regatta, the world’s best were here and we are so happy with what we have done and were we are at right now.”

Doerr added, “The feeling never gets old but I haven’t done it enough to really know that feeling. I’ve been to Medemblik three times and I’ve never come away with the win, so leaving now with a trophy and the win is very validating for all the years of effort that have gone into this training.”

“It reflects what our team has been about for this entire quad, which is focussing on the training the process and not really the results, and if the results come into play the right way then so be it. And we are so fortunate and blessed to have it go our way because the fleet we sailed against is some of the best sailors I have ever sailed against. It’s great. It’s tremendous.”

In the 14 boat SKUD18 fleet, Monika Gibes/Piotr Cichocki (POL) have led from the day 1 and dominated a very competitive fleet all week. Taking a 12 point lead into the final day they only needed one good race to secure the title and that came early on with a fourth place in race 9 to win the world title with a race to spare. Alexandra Rickham/Nikki Birrell (GBR) won silver and defending champions, Daniel Fitzgibbon/Liesl Tesch (AUS), won bronze.

With Fitzgibbon/Tesch winning and Rickham/Birrell in second, and separated by only one point, it looked like going right down to the wire. However, after the race the Australians were protested and disqualified in race 9. This meant a medal for the Australians was down to the final race and the British has already secured silver, but no one knew this at the time.

In the final race the Australians made the best start to lead round the top mark with the British second and the Poles in third. After a tough and close race, the positions didn’t change with Fitzgibbon/Tesch taking the race win to secure the bronze.

Gibes was very excited. “I cannot believe we won. I really cannot believe it. I feel so excited that we won the world championship.” Cichocki was equally effusive about their dominant victory. “My heart is double now. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I am so proud.”

2.4 Norlin OD
Heiko Kroger (GER) started the day with a seven point lead in the 30 boat 2.4 Norlin OD fleet. He capitalised on that by winning the first race of the day. Damien Seguin (FRA) slipped up slightly with an eighth place, but both Matt Bugg (AUS) and Helena Lucas (GBR) were right behind the German sailor, setting up a final race showdown.

Kroger needed to finish 11th or better to secure the title. At one point he looked in trouble but recovered to finish 11th to take the title his ninth 2.4 world title and eighth para world title. Seguin finished just five points adrift to take silver, with Bugg taking bronze.

Kroger explained the final tense race. “I won the first race so it gave me a bit of a gap to the others. Then in the second race I was around about fifth or sixth. It was going well and then I had a small crash with Dee Smith from the US. It was really not necessary but I did a 720. It was not close but it makes you nervous for a few minutes, so then I tried to find some free space and I ended up in a position when everything was safe, so I am really happy about that.”

“It was a crazy race because at the start it was all so tight and the wind wasn’t good. Matt Bugg was over early and had to go back, so at this point I thought there’s no problem. Damien was somewhere around so I just had to keep going and I will win.”

On winning the para world championship for the eighth time and heading into Rio with the title he said, “It’s like the feeling when you win for the first time. You never get bored by winning a world championship.”

All the results are here: Results

Check out the event website for lots more stories, photos and videos of the 2016 Delta Lloyd Regatta and the Delta lloyd 2016 Para Sailing World Championships.