John ROBERTSON, Hannah STODEL and Stephen THOMAS - reigning IFDS World Champions in the three-person keelboat Sonar - and 2.4 Metre Open World bronze medallist Helena LUCAS will spearhead the Skandia Team GBR challenge at the 2006 IFDS Worlds, which is the first of two opportunities for nations to qualify for the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition.
Over 70 competitors from 14 nations will race on the Swan River from 19-25 January, and the top seven ranked nations in both the One-Person Keelboat 2.4 Metre and Three-Person Keelboat Sonar events will gain qualification for the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition, subject to IPC approval .
ROBERTSON and his crew will be defending the IFDS World title they captured in Danish waters in September, and will count Norwegian Jostein STORDAHL's IFDS silver medal winning crew, and Jens KROKER's bronze medal winning outfit from Germany amongst their strongest threats for the title.
Skandia Team GBR's Sonar coach, Mark RUSHALL, is confident that the team's preparations will stand them in good stead.'The team have now been here for a week - first priority was to get over time zone effects, unload containers, check and make good any travel damage, and fine-tuning of the boats to prepare for the prevailing conditions. The British team can be found pumping iron each morning, though heavy gym work tails off as the regatta proper approaches.
'The primary goal at these championships is to qualify GBR for places at the Paralympic Games in China: effectively this requires a top seven place at this event for Sonars and 2.4's, though last year's results indicate that the GBR performance squad have their sights set higher than that.'
Megan PASCOE and Michael COGSWELL join LUCAS as Skandia Team GBR's contenders for the 2.4 Metre crown. LUCAS and COGSWELL both enjoyed podium success during 2005, clinching gold and bronze respectively at the prestigious Semaine Olympique Française. LUCAS also earned bronze medals at both Kieler Woche and the 2.4 Metre Open World Championship in Italy, where she finished third out of a fleet of 88 disabled and able bodied sailors.
The 2.4 Metre line up in Perth includes USA's 2.4 Metre Open World Champion Nick SCANDONE, and Paralympic and IFDS World Champion Damien SEGUIN of France - although SEGUIN has not had the best of fortune ahead of his title defence, as Skandia Team GBR's 2.4 Metre coach Adam MAY explained.
'We are still waiting to see if Damien the will make the regatta in time. The container ship his boat was on broke down and had to divert to Italy, so he collected it from there and flew the boat. It has now got lost in customs, and they are trying to find it...'
For all the news from the Alcoa IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championships CLICK HERE.