Dan FITZGIBBON (AUS) and Zoltan PEGAN (AUS) continue to lead the championship, being sailed at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron on the Victorian coast.
Fitzgibbon, from Queensland, is sailing in Fleet A, the division that has mostly quadriplegics, whilst New South Welshman, Pegan, who has paraplegia, is sailing in Fleet B.
The winner at the end of the series will be the lowest scorer from combined fleets - the prize one of Chris Mitchell's Access Liberty's - the boat being used for this event.
Fitzgibbon won both his races comfortably yesterday morning sailing in light fluky breezes of around 4-5 knots, with a strong tide. With his skill and sailing knowledge, Fitzgibbon left the others in his wake, as did Pegan out in the afternoon races. Nobody put up a serious challenge for either yesterday, although all four starts were very competitive. Both have won all their races for an overall of four points each leading in to tomorrow's racing.
The battle is taking place in both fleets for second and third paces. In Fleet A, Race 3, it was Bento Amaral (POR) who came home third, dropping to fourth in Race 4, but remains in second place overall with 13 points.
Matt BROWN (AUS), is putting up a good effort too, getting better as the series progresses. He finished his day with a second and a fourth yesterday to be third overall with 15 points.
In fleet B, Peter TH
OMPSON (AUS) finished his day with a 3-2 result to be placed second overall in that fleet and second overall in the combined series. Thompson will represent Australia at the Paralympic Games later this year and is expected to give Pegan a run in stronger breezes. Fleet B started their afternoon yesterday in 6 knots, but by their second race, it had lightened a little.
Currently third placed in Fleet B is Maryanne IRELAND (AUS), one of four girls sailing at this event. She scored a fourth and third yesterday for 14 points overall, however, Mat BROWN (AUS) finished 2-4 yesterday to hold on to fourth just one point behind third.
Fitzgibbon, a 27 year-old quadriplegic, who is studying at University for a Batchelor of Business degree, commented after yesterday's race that he was keen to win this Championship event.
"I would really like to go to the Paralympics, that's my aim. Before I had my accident in 1997, my aim was Olympics. That hasn't changed.
Today was very difficult, really light, but you can't get frustrated - you just have to keep it going fast - keep the momentum. It's tricky sailing with a joystick, but it is like sailing a mini keelboat. I am happy with my performance here, though, all I need now is a sponsor to help me to get to events overseas so I can achieve my goals. It's not as simple as it sounds, because you can't go on your own, you need a Carer with you, and that takes money for airfares, accommodation, food and so on.
Sailing in Fleet A with Fitzgibbon is a gutsy ventilated quadriplegic by the name of Andrew HARTLEY.
Originally from England, the 42 year-old started sailing when he was eight and kept it up until at age 20, whilst playing Rugby, he broke his neck, ending both careers.
A tall, well-built man, now married with a son and living in South Australia, Hartley still looks formidable. Sailability's arrival in South Australia has put Hartley back on the water.
A member of Adelaide Sailing Club, Hartley bought his own Access Liberty a couple of month's ago and had it adapted to take his ventilator.
"I was not a bad sailor when I was younger, I always enjoyed it. These boats are great. I'd be happy with any boat, I never thought I would ever go sailing again. I use chin controls to steer and pull sheets in. Sailing gives me independence, I am rarely by myself. I can compete and I am in charge. I can be competitive and I would love to go to Paralympics - that is my goal."
He went on to say that the competition at this event was tough - tougher than he imagined, mentioning Fitzgibbon, Thompson and Pegan. Hartley has placed 3-9-10-8 at this regatta - yesterday's light, light airs not helping carry the extra weight of his ventilator, his results not reflecting his obvious talent for sailing. However, on Day one in 12 knot breezes, he did score a third place after having only sailed the Access Liberty 'four or five times' prior to this event.
Volunteers at Blairgowrie are on hand every step of the way at this Sail Melbourne event. Getting competitors to and from their accommodation, getting them in and out of their boats, then up to the club, it is like well-oiled machinery to watch. A good place for others looking at running similar events to come and take note.
To watch these competitors have their piece of freedom, to be able to be competitive, even on a level playing field in most cases, makes you realise how important organizations like Sailability and people like Chris MITCHELL really are.
Racing in this Sail Melbourne event continues on Port Phillip Bay tomorrow. Full results are available on the event website at the address below.