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19 October 2009, 03:41 pm
Golds For Germany, Great Britain And The Netherlands At IFDS Worlds
The Sonars racing in Greece
The three medal winners in the Sonar fleet race in Athens

IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship 2009
Athens, Greece

The 2009 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championships came to close in Athens, Greece on Sunday with gold medals in the three Paralympic sailing events going to Germany, Great Britain and The Netherlands.
After a week of rain, the sun finally shone for the final day of racing in Athens, with the final two races held across each of the three Paralympic sailing events competing. Dutchman Thierry Schmitter claimed the World title in the Single-Person Keelboat - 2.4mR event, whilst Britain took the title in the Two-Person Keelboat event, with the SKUD18 duo of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell winning their first ever World title. In the Three-Person Keelboat - Sonar event the German team of Jens Kroker, Siegmund Mainka and Robert Prem added the IFDS World title to the Paralympic gold medal they won in Qingdao last September.

With 27 athletes representing 11 nations, the 2.4mR fleet was the largest competing in Athens, but that did nothing to stop Schmitter, runner up in this ISAF Sailing World Cup, from dominating the series from start to finish. Heiko Kroger of Germany took the silver medal, with Britain's Helena Lucas completing the podium.

Skandia Team GBR picked up their second medal of the championship in the Two-Person Keelboat event, with the SKUD18 duo of Alex Rickham and Niki Birrell winning their first ever World title.

Rickham, 28, and 23-year-old Birrell, who finished fifth at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, sailed a consistent series across the four days of competition to see them clinch five race wins from the nine races held, and seal victory by three points over USA rivals and World Cup winners Scott Whitman and Julia Dorsett. Canada's John Mcroberts and Brenda Hopkin took the bronze medal.

Whitman and Dorsett had got the better of the British duo on their home waters at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth and Portland last month, but Rickham was determined not to settle for silver this time around.

"Since I've been helming, we've only beaten the American team once, and it's fantastic to have done that at the Worlds," she explained.

Having previously crewed the SKUD, Rickham took over helming duties from Birrell at the beginning of 2009. "We knew we would have a lot of work to do this year because of the role reversal, but all of the hard work has paid off and today is the culmination of all of that," Rickham continued.

"Niki and I put together a good series - we made a few mistakes, but mostly we were pretty solid throughout and we're just so happy to have finally got a good result when it counts. We're over the moon but knackered!"

"We owe big thanks to the whole team, who've been really supportive and kept us in good spirits this week, but also to our coach Ian Barker," Birrell added, paying tribute to the 2000 Sydney silver medal-winning 49er sailor, who started working with the SKUD pair this year.

"He's been a massive help, both from a practical point of view, but has also helped us take our campaign to the next level.

Birrell continued: "I'm sure he'd be the first person to say we're nowhere near the finished article and there's lots we need to work on between now and 2012, but for now we're really happy and this win means an awful lot to us after the hard work we've put in this year."

In the Sonar, the German team of Kroker, Mainka and Prem took an early advantage in the series but had to battle back after a disqualification in race six opened up the leaderboard. A second and a fourth place in the final two races was enough for them to secure the title ahead. The fast finishing Israel team of Dror Cohen, Arnon Efrati and Benny Vexler, Paralympic gold medallists in Athens five years ago, secured silver after winning both races on the final day, whilst the host nation Greece also secured a medal with Vasilis Christoforou, Notaroglou Argiris and Thodoris Alexas just beating the Norwegians to the bronze.

In total 16 nations were represented in Greece, with medals going to seven different nations. Germany topped the medal table with one gold and one silver medal, followed by Great Britain, with one gold and one bronze.

Click here for more news, photos and more from Athens.

ISAF (source: Hellenic Sailing Federation)
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