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27 October 2001, 09:56 am
Kroger (GER) Already Dominating in 2.4 Metre
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Heiko Kroger

2001 IFDS World Disabled Sailling Championships
St Petersburg, Florida

Reiging Paralympic Champion and Open 2.4 Metre Champion starts as he means to go on with two first places after Day 1 of racing.
The World Disabled Sailing Championship opened on Tampa Bay yesterday with a northern breeze gusting over 20 knots and short, choppy seas testing the sailors and the sails.

The Israel Sonar team skippered by Dror Cohen had their mainsail blow up just after the start of race one but came back to win the second race and holds down ninth spot in the 16-boat fleet after yesterday's two races.

Topping the Sonar Class was the Canadian team of Brian Mackie, Brian MacDonald, and Paul Tingley, which posted at 1-2 record and leads the British team of Andy Cassell, Brian Harding, and Edward Suckling by three points.

On the 2.4 mR course, Paralympic champion Heiko Kroger of Germany was unbeaten in two races with the next six skippers taking turns posting top five finishes. Ruud van Holsteyn (NED) finished 4-2 and holds down second place, one point ahead of Bjomar Erickstad (NOR)

Teams from the host country in both fleets stayed close to the leaders with Rick Doerr of Clifton, NJ, and Paul Callahan of Providence, RI tied for fifth place in the Sonars. Olympian Thomas Brown finished 6-4 in the 2.4 mR Class to end up fifth in the 14-boat fleet, four points out of second place.

'I haven't been in a boat all summer,' Brown said, 'and I can feel it.'

The opening day was a test for sailors and the race committee as the strong winds fought an incoming tide early in the day, adding to the difficult wave patterns.

'It was choppy, but not very big waves. It looked difficult, but manageable,' said Linda Merkle, technical delegate from International Foundation of Disabled Sailing (IFDS).
'The current slacked and turned during the second race and flattened the seas.'

Keith Burhans, who was crewing with Callahan, was less than thrilled about the conditions on the water. He managed a smile, saying, 'The sailing was great, but that was probably as high (wind) as we ever need to sail in. Survival conditions are what they are.'

The 2.4 mR boats, sailed single-handed with only the skipper's head and shoulders protruding above the deck, were given a more protected race course. The St. Petersburg Yacht Club race committee tucked the marks as far west on the bay as possible to avoid the bigger waves rolling down the exposed bay but the onboard bilge pumps on the low freeboard race boats were busy all morning.

In the Sonar Class, the rough conditions led to a few mechanical failures of blocks and sheets but all of the boats were able to complete the racing schedule. Cohen was able to sail back to the St. Petersburg Sailing Center during the first race and secure a backup mainsail for the second race. Three of the Sonar teams elected to sit out the first day due to the strong winds and seas.

Weather permitting, the world championship continues Saturday and Sunday before taking a lay day Monday, Oct. 29. Nine total races are scheduled, finishing up Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 30-31.

Sonar - Results After Two Races
1. CAN629 - B. Mackie, B. MacDonald & P. Tingley - 1, 2
2. GBR608 - J. Robertson, H. Stodel & J. Long Sunderland - 2, 4
3. GER1 - J. Kroker, D. Steigel & P. Reichl - 4, 3
4. GBR20 - A. Cassell, B. Harding & E. Suckling - 5, 6
5. USA458 - R. Doerr, T. Angle & M. McKinnon-Tucker - 3, 10

2.4 Metre - Results After Two Races
1. GER1 - H. Kroeger - 1, 1
2. NED3 - R. van Holsteyn - 4, 2
3. NOR101 - B. Erikstad - 2, 5
4. NED2 - T. Schmitter - 3, 6
5. USA116 - T. Brown - 6, 4

[Note: The photo accompanying thist article is not taken at the Worlds. Heiko Kroger is a nominee for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards 2001 to be announced and presented on 13 November 2001. Full details on the ISAF Website]
Doran Cushing/ISAF Secretariat
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